Trends in Organized Crime

, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 101–121 | Cite as

Introduction to Social Network Analysis (SNA) as an investigative tool

  • Renée C. van der HulstEmail author
Original Article


Social behavior is brought about mainly through social ties and connections. Our contacts with other people shape our view of the world, reinforce our identity, and the interactions provide us with all kinds of opportunities and resources to get things done. The social capital associated with networks is also one of the primary ways facilitating crime. Therefore, the systematic analysis of criminal networks is considered a viable means to gain a more thorough understanding of criminal behavior. This paper is a general introduction to social network analysis (SNA) as an analytical tool for the study of adversary networks. The paper reviews some theoretical and key concepts, highlights functional applications, and presents a tentative protocol for data handling and coding. The discussion deals with some methodological issues, challenges and future developments in the field.


Social Network Analysis (SNA) Organized crime Terrorism Social capital Methods Criminal investigation 


  1. Blau PM (1964) Exchange and power in social life. John Wiley & Sons, NYGoogle Scholar
  2. Borgatti SP, Jones C, Everett MG (1998) Network measures of social capital. Connections 21(2):27–36Google Scholar
  3. Borgatti SP, Everett MG, Freeman LC (2002) Ucinet 6 for Windows: Software for social network analysis. Analytic Technol, HarvardGoogle Scholar
  4. Borgatti SP, Carley KM, Krackhardt D (2006) On the robustness of centrality measures under conditions of imperfect data. Soc Networks 28:124–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bourdieu P (1986) The forms of social capital. In: Richardson JG (ed) The handbook of theory: Research for the sociology of education. Greenwood Press, NYGoogle Scholar
  6. Bruinsma GJN, Bernasco W (2004) Criminal groups and transnational markets: A more detailed examination on the basis of social network theory. Crime Law & Soc Chang 41:79–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Burt RS (1992) Structural holes: The social structure of competition. Harvard Univ Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  8. Burt RS (2000) The network structure of social capital. In: Sutton RI, Staw BM (eds) Res in organ behavior. JAI Press, Greenwich, CTGoogle Scholar
  9. Burt RS (2001) Structural holes versus network closure capital. In: Lin N, Cook KS, Burt RS (eds) Social capital: theory and research. Aldine de Gruyter, NYGoogle Scholar
  10. Carley KM (2003a) Dynamic network analysis. In: Breiger R, Carley K, Pattison P (eds) Dynamic social network modeling and analysis: workshop summary and papers. The Natl Acad Press, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  11. Carley KM (2003b) Linking capabilities to needs. In: Breiger R, Carley K, Pattison P (eds) Dynamic social network modeling and analysis: Workshop summary and papers. The Natl Acad Press, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  12. Carley KM, Lee JS, Krackhardt D (2001) Destabilizing networks. Connections 24(3):79–92Google Scholar
  13. Chattoe E, Hamill H (2005) It’s not who you know - it’s what you know about people you don’t know that counts. Br J of Criminol 45:860–876CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Clark RM (2007) Intelligence analysis: A target-centric approach. CQ Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  15. Coleman JS (1990) Foundations of social theory. Harvard Univ Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  16. Coles N (2001) It’s not what you know - it’s who you know that counts: Analysing serious crime groups as social networks. Br J of Criminol 41:580–594CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Contractor NS, Monge PR (2003) Using multi-theoretical multi-level (MTML) models to study adversarial networks. In: Breiger R, Carley K, Pattison P (eds) Dynamic social network modeling and analysis: Workshop summary and papers. The Natl Acad Press, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  18. Cook KS, Whitmeyer JM (1992) Two approaches to social structure: Exchange theory and network analysis. Annu Rev of Sociol 18:109–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Emirbayer M, Goodwin J (1994) Network analysis, culture, and the problem of agency. Am J of Sociol 99(6):1411–1454CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fijnaut C, Bovenkerk F, Bruinsma G et al (1998) Organized crime in the Netherlands. Kluwer Law International, The Hague, the NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  21. Flap HD, Völker B (2003) Creation and returns of social capital. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  22. Granovetter M (1973) The strength of weak ties. Am J of Sociol 78:1360–1380CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Harary F (1969) Graph theory. Addison-Wesley, Reading, MAGoogle Scholar
  24. Harper WR, Harris DH (1975) The application of link analysis to police intelligence. Human Factors 17(2):157–164Google Scholar
  25. Heider F (1958) The psychology of interpersonal relation. John Wiley & Sons, NYCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Homans GC (1958) Social behavior as exchange. Am J of Sociol 63:597–606CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kadushin C (2002) The motivational foundation of social networks. Soc Networks 24(1):77–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kleemans ER, Brienen MEI, Van de Bunt HG (2002) Georganiseerde criminaliteit in Nederland [Organized crime in the Netherlands]. Boom Distributiecentrum, Meppel, the NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  29. Klerks P (2001) The network paradigm applied to criminal organisations: Theoretical nitpicking or a relevant doctrine for investigators? Recent developments in the Netherlands. Connections 24(3):53–65Google Scholar
  30. Koschade S (2006) A social network analysis of Jemaah Islamiyah: The applications to counterterrorism and intelligence. Stud in Confl & Terror 29:589–605Google Scholar
  31. Krackhardt D (1998) Simmelian tie: Super strong and sticky In: Kramer RM, Neale M (eds), Power and influence in organizations. Sage, Thousand Oaks, CAGoogle Scholar
  32. Krebs V (2002) Mapping networks of terrorist cells. Connections 24(3):43–52Google Scholar
  33. Leenders RThAJ, Gabbay SM (1999) Corporate social capital and liability. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Boston, MAGoogle Scholar
  34. Lin N (1992) Social resources theory. In Borgatta EF, Borgatta ML (eds): Encyclopedia of Sociol. NY, vol. 4:1936–1942Google Scholar
  35. Lin N (2001) Social capital: A theory of social structure and action. Cambridge Univ Press, Cambridge, NYGoogle Scholar
  36. McDowell D (1998) Strategic intelligence: A handbook for practitioners, managers and users. Istana Enterprises Pty. Ltd, Cooma AustraliaGoogle Scholar
  37. McGrath C, Krackhardt D, Blythe J (2003) Visualizing complexity in networks: Seeing both the forest and the trees. Connections 25(1):37–47Google Scholar
  38. McGrath C, Blythe J, Krackhardt D (1997) The effect of spatial arrangement on judgments and errors in interpreting graphs. Soc Networks 19(3):223–242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. McIllwain JS (1999) Organized crime: A social network approach. Crime Law & Soc Chang 32:301–323CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. McNally D, Alston J (2006) Use of social network analysis (SNA) in the examination of an outlaw motorcycle gang. J of Gang Res 13(3):1–25Google Scholar
  41. McPherson M, Smith-Lovin L, Cook JM (2001) Birds of a feather: Homophily in social networks. Annu Rev of Sociol 27:415–444CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Mintzberg H (1983) Structure in fives: Designing effective organizations, 6th translated edn. Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, USAGoogle Scholar
  43. Morselli C, Giguère C (2006) Legitimate strengths in criminal networks. Crime Law & Soc Chang 45(3):185–200CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Morselli C, Petit K (2007) Law enforcement disruption of a drug importation network. Global Crime 8(2):109–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Morselli C, Roy J (2008) Brokerage qualifications in ringing operations. Criminol 46(1):71–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Morselli C, Giguère C, Petit K (2007) The efficiency/security trade-off in criminal networks. Soc Networks 29:143–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Natarajan M (2000) Understanding the structure of a drug trafficking organization: A conversational analysis. Crime Prevention Stud 11:273–298Google Scholar
  48. Natarajan M (2006) Understanding the structure of a large heroin distribution network: A quantitative analysis of qualitative data. J of Quant Criminol 22:171–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Portes A (1998) Social capital: Its origins and applications in modern sociology. Annu Rev of Sociol 24(1):1–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Rothenberg R (2002) From whole cloth: Making up the terrorist network. Connections 24(3):36–42Google Scholar
  51. Sageman M (2004) Understanding terror networks. Univ of Pennsylvania Press, PhiladelphiaGoogle Scholar
  52. Schwartz DM, Rouselle DA (2008) Targeting criminal networks: Using social network analysis to develop enforcement and intelligence priorities. IALEIA J 18(1):18–44Google Scholar
  53. Scott J (2000) Social network analysis: A handbook. Sage, Newbury Park CAGoogle Scholar
  54. Simmel G (1950) The sociology of Georg Simmel. Free Press, NYGoogle Scholar
  55. Sparrow MK (1991a) Network vulnerabilities and strategic intelligence in law enforcement. J of Intell and Counterintell 5(3):255–274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Sparrow MK (1991b) The application of network analysis to criminal intelligence: An assessment of the prospects. Soc Networks 13:251–274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Strang S (2005) User guide RCMP target profile sheet. Royal Canadian Mounted Police, CanadaGoogle Scholar
  58. Tsvetovat M, Carley KM (2007) On effectiveness of wiretap programs in mapping social networks. J of Comput and Math Organ Theory 13(1):63–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Tyler JR, Wilkinson DM, Huberman BA (2003) Email as spectroscopy: Automated discovery of community structure within organizations. Communities and Technol 81–96Google Scholar
  60. Van der Hulst RC (2004) Gender differences in workplace authority: An empirical study on social networks. Univ Groningen (ICS thesis), Groningen, the NetherlandsGoogle Scholar
  61. Wasserman S, Faust K (1994) Social network analysis: Methods and applications. Cambridge Univ Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  62. Williams (2001) Transnational criminal networks. In: Arquilla J, Ronfeldt D (eds) Networks and netwars: The future of terror, crime and militancy. Rand Corporation, Santa MonicaGoogle Scholar
  63. Xu J, Marshall B, Kaza S et al (2004) Intelligence security and security informatics. Springer, Berlin/HeidelbergGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research and Documentation Centre (WODC)Ministry of JusticeThe Haguethe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations