Criminal Groups and Transnational Illegal Markets


Bruinsma, Gerben, and Wim Bernasco. 2004. “Criminal Groups and Transnational Illegal Markets.” Crime, Law & Social Change 41: 79–94.

Authors: Gerben Bruinsma, Wim Bernasco


In the study of organised crime, the traditional view of criminal groups as centrally controlled organisations has been replaced by the notion of criminal networks. However, little use has been made of concepts and theories of social networks that have developed in other social sciences. This paper uses concepts from social network theory to describe and tentatively explain differences in social organization between criminal groups that perform three types of transnational illegal activities: smuggling and large-scale heroine trading, trafficking in women, and trading stolen cars. Groups that operate in the large-scale heroin market tend to be close-knit, cohesive and ethnically homogenous. Groups active in the trafficking of women have a chain structure, while those that operate in the market for stolen cars are charactersed by three clusters of offenders in a chain. Both groups are less cohesive than criminal groups in the large-scale heroin market. The differences in social organisation between the three types of illegal activities appear to be related to the legal and financial risks associated with the crimes in question, and thereby to the required level of trust between collaborating criminals.

Topics: Corruption, Economies, Trafficking, Drug Trafficking, Human Trafficking, Sex Trafficking

Year: 2004

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