Social Network Analysis Applied to Criminal Networks: Recent Developments in Dutch Law Enforcement

  • Paul A. C. Duijn
  • Peter P. H. M. Klerks
Part of the Lecture Notes in Social Networks book series (LNSN)


This article examines the application of social network theory in Dutch law enforcement. Increasing amounts of information about habitual lawbreakers and criminal networks are collected under the paradigm of Intelligence-Led Policing. Combined with data gathered from open sources such as social media, such resources allow criminal analysts trained in social network analysis (SNA) at the Police Academy of The Netherlands to apply advanced network analysis methodology and crime scripting. This in turn helps the police to identify crucial weak spots in illicit arrangements and criminal business processes. A case study of the 'Blackbird' crime network, involved in the wholesale cultivation of cannabis is presented to illustrate the power of SNA when combined with crime script analysis. Using a mix of quantitative and qualitative analysis, the topology of the 86-strong Blackbird network is laid out and its substructures and key individuals exposed. In detailing the network's social embeddedness, the authors clarify the importance of female actors for the flexibility and efficiency of the network structure and thereby for the continuity of criminal business. Applying SNA is already helping criminal intelligence units of the Dutch police in identifying intelligence gaps and potential informants. Working in symbiosis, analysts and informant handlers develop a better understanding of strategic targeting and access points to relatively unknown criminal communities and –markets. To be delivered in a timely way to be useful in ongoing criminal investigations, SNA products require even faster data processing. Also, when applied to dark networks SNA should be tailored to better take network dynamics into account, in particular regarding the adaptability to network disruption.


Social network analysis Organized crime Script analysis Crime logistics The Netherlands Intelligence led policing 


  1. 1.
    Milward HB, Raab J (2006) Dark networks as organizational problems: elements of a theory. Int Pub Manage J 9(3):333–360CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Morselli C (2009) Inside Crim Netw. Springer, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Europol (2011) OCTA: EU organized crime threat assessment. European Police Office, The HagueGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2010) The globalization of crime: a transnational organized crime threat assessment. United Nations Publications, ViennaGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Morselli C, Giguère C, Petit K (2006) The efficiency/security trade-off in criminal networks. Soc Netw 29(1):143–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Xu KS, Kliger M, Chen Y, Woolf PJ, Hero III AO (2009) Revealing social networks of spammers through spectral clustering. In: Proceedings IEEE conference communicationsGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Lindelauf R, Borm P, Hamers H (2009) The influence of secrecy on the communication structure of covert networks. Soc Netw 31(2):126–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Kleemans ER, Brienen MEI, Van de Bunt HG et al (2002) Georganiseerde criminaliteit in Nederland: tweede rapportage op basis van de WODC-monitor. WODC, Den HaagGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    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
  10. 10.
    Spapens ACM (2010) Macro networks, collectives, and business processes: an integrated approach to organized crime. Eur J Crime, Crim Law, Crim Justice 18(2):185–215CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Sparrow M (1991) The application of network analysis to criminal intelligence: an assessment of the prospects. Soc Netw 13:251–274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Décay-Hétu D, Morselli C (2011) Gang presence in social network sites. J Cyber Criminol 5(2):876–890Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Dijkstra LJ, Yakushev AV, Duijn PAC, Boukhanovsky AV, Sloot PMA (2012) Inference of the Russian drug community from one of the largest social networks in the Russian Federation. arXiv:1211.4783v2Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Bright DA, Delaney JJ (2013) Evolution of a drug trafficking network: mapping changes in network structure and functions across time. Glob Crime 14(2–3):238–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Duijn PAC, Kashirin V, Sloot PMA (submitted 2014) The relative ineffectiveness of criminal network disruptionGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Morselli C, Petit K (2007) Law enforcement disruption of a drug importation network. Glob Crime 8(2):109–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Klerks PPHM (2000) Groot in de hasj: theorie en praktijk van de georganiseerde criminaliteit. Samsom Kluwer Rechtswetenschappen, AntwerpenGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Van de Bunt HG, Van der Schoot C (eds) (2003) Prevention of organised crime: a situational approach. Boom Juridische Uitgevers, Den HaagGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Nelen H, Lankhorst F (2008) Facilitating organized crime: the role of lawyers and notaries. In: Siegel D, Nelen H (eds) Organized crime: culture, markets and policies. Springer, New York, pp 127–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Kleemans ER, Van den Berg EAIM, Van de Bunt HG et al (1998) Georganiseerde criminaliteit in Nederland: rapportage op basis van de WODC-monitor. WODC, Den HaagGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Van de Bunt HG, Kleemans ER et al (2007) Georganiseerde criminaliteit in Nederland: derde rapportage op basis van de Monitor Georganiseerde Criminaliteit. Boom Juridische Uitgevers, Den HaagGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Boerman F, Grapendaal M, Nieuwenhuis F, Stoffers E (2012) Nationaal dreigingsbeeld 2012 Georganiseerde criminaliteit. Dienst IPOL, ZoetermeerGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Korps landelijke politiediensten (2008) Nationaal dreigingsbeeld 2008: Georganiseerde criminaliteit. KLPD Dienst IPOL, ZoetermeerGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Kruisbergen EW, Van de Bunt HG, Kleemans ER et al (2013) Georganiseerde criminaliteit in Nederland: vierde rapportage op basis van de Monitor Georganiseerde Criminaliteit. WODC, Den HaagGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Nationaal dreigingsbeeld zware of georganiseerde criminaliteit: Een eerste proeve (2004). Dienst Nationale Recherche Informatie, ZoetermeerGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Soudijn M (2006) Chinese human smuggling in transit. Boom Juridische uitgevers, Den HaagGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Spapens AC (2006) Interactie tussen criminaliteit en opsporing: De gevolgen van opsporingsactiviteiten voor de organisatie en afscherming van xtc-productie en -handel in Nederland. Intersentia, AntwerpenGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Spapens AC, Van de Bunt HG, Rastovac L et al (2007) De wereld achter de wietteelt. Boom Juridische uitgevers, Den HaagGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Staring R, Engbersen G, Moerland H et al (2005) De sociale organisatie van mensensmokkel. Zeist, KerckeboschGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Zaitch D (2002) Trafficking cocaine: colombian drug entrepreneurs in the Netherlands. Kluwer Law International, Den HaagGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Projectgroep Visie op de politiefunctie, Raad van Hoofdcommissarissen (2005) Politie in ontwikkeling: visie op de politiefunctie. NPI, Den HaagGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Roobeek AJM, Van der Helm M (2010) Netwerkend werken en intelligent opsporen: een meervoudige uitdaging voor de Nederlandse Politie. Free Musketeers, ZoetermeerGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Neve R (2010) Netwerken op de stromen. KLPD-IPOL, ZoetermeerGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Bosveld M (2010) Van je vrienden moet je het hebben… Een verkennend onderzoek naar de toepassing van Forensisch Sociale Netwerk Analyse in Cold Case onderzoeken. Student paper, Politieacademie, ApeldoornGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Visser R (2013) Effecten van politie-interventies: Onderzoek naar de ontwikkeling van een crimineel network na een politie-interventie. Student paper. Politieacademie, ApeldoornGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Van der Horst PH, Sutmuller AD, Vredengoor S (2013) Real-time op alle niveaus: Snel tot de kern! Politieacademie, s.lGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Verantwoording aanpak georganiseerde criminaliteit 2012 (2013) Openbaar Ministerie & Politie, s.lGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Hanneman RA, Riddle M (2005) Introduction to social network methods. University of California, Riverside, (published in digital form at
  39. 39.
    Van der Hulst R (2009) Introduction to social network analysis (SNA) as an investigative tool. Trends organ crime 12:101–121CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Natarajan M (2006) Understanding the structure of a large heroin distribution network: a quantitive analysis of qualitative data. J Quant Criminol 22(2):171–192CrossRefMATHMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Scott J (2000) Social network analysis: a handbook. Sage, Newbury ParkGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Borgatti SP, Everett MG, Freeman LC (2002) Ucinet for windows: software for social network analysis. Analytic Technologies, HarvardGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Cornish DB (1994) The procedural analysis of offending and its relevance for situational prevention. Crime Prevention Stud 3:151–196Google Scholar
  44. 44.
    Bruinsma G, Bernasco W (2004) Criminal groups and transnational illegal markets. Crime, Law, Soc Change 41:79–94CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Morselli C, Roy J (2008) Brokerage qualifications in ringing operations. Criminology 46(1):71–98CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Morselli C (2001) Structuring Mr. Nice: entrepreneurial opportunities and brokerage positioning in the cannabis trade. Crime, Law Soc Change 35:203–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    Emmet I, Broers J (2008) The green gold: report of a study of the cannabis sector for the national threat assessment of organized crime. KLPD-IPOL, ZoetermeerGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Potter GR, Bouchard M, Decorte T (2011) The globalization of cannabis cultivation. In: Decorte T, Potter G & Bouchard M (eds) World Wide Weed. Ashgate. pp 1–20Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    Coles N (2001) It’s not what you know, but who you know that counts: analyzing criminal crime groups as social networks. British J Criminol 41:580–594CrossRefMathSciNetGoogle Scholar
  50. 50.
    Krebs VE (2002) Mapping networks of terrorist cells. Connections 24(3):43–52Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    Roberts N, Everton SF (2011) Strategies for combating dark networks. J Soc Struct 12(2):1–32Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    Baker WE, Faulkner RR (1993) The social organization of conspiracy: illegal networks in the heavy electrical equipment industry. Am Sociol Rev 58:837–860CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. 53.
    Robins G (2008) Understanding individual behaviours within covert networks: the interplay of individual qualities, psychological predispositions, and network effects. Trends Organ Crime 12:166–187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. 54.
    Everton S (2010) Tracking, destabilizing, and disrupting dark networks with social network analysis. Dark Networks Course ManualGoogle Scholar
  55. 55.
    Bonacich P (1987) Power and centrality: a family of measures. Am J Sociol 92(5):1170–1182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. 56.
    Burt RS (2002) Structural holes versus network closure as social capital. In: Lin N, Cook KS, Burt RS (eds) Social capital: theory and research. Transaction, New Brunswick, pp 31–56Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    Carley KM, Ju-Sung L, Krackhardt D (2002) Destabilizing networks. Connections 24(3):79–92Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    Varese F (2012) How Mafias take advantage of globalization the Russian Mafia in Italy. Br J Criminol 52:235–253CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. 59.
    Kleemans ER, Van de Bunt HG (1999) The social embeddedness of organized crime. Transnatl Organ Crime 5:19–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. 60.
    Granovetter M (1983) The strength of weak ties: a network theory revisited. Sociol Theory 1:201–233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. 61.
    McCarthy B, Hagan J (1995) Getting into street crime: the structure and process of criminal embeddedness. Soc Sci Res 24:63–95CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. 62.
    Sutherland E (1937) The professional thief- by a professional thief: annotated and interpretated by Edwin Sutherland. University of Chicago, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  63. 63.
    Erickson B (1981) Secret societies and social structure. Soc Forces 60:188–210Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    Ratcliffe JH (2008) Intelligence-Led Policing. Willan Publishing, CullomptonGoogle Scholar
  65. 65.
    Ormand D, Bartlett J, Miller C (2012) Introducing Social Media Intelligence (SOCMINT), Intelligence and National Security, pp 1–23Google Scholar
  66. 66.
    McDowell D (2009) Strategic intelligence: a handbook for practitioners, managers and users. Scarecrow professional intelligence education series, no 5Google Scholar
  67. 67.
    Xu J, Marchall B, Kaza S, Chen H (2004) Analyzing and visualizing criminal network dynamics: a case study. In: Intelligence and security informatics, vol 2072. Proceedings of the ISI 2004 Second Symposium, Tucson, pp 359–377Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Research and AnalysisDutch Police Unit the HagueThe HagueThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Board of Procurators-GeneralPublic Prosecutor’s OfficeThe HagueThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations