A Robust Measure to Uncover Collective Brokers in Illicit Networks

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Objectives Brokers are said to be the oiling chain of illicit networks, facilitating the efficient flow of illicit products to destination. Yet, most of the available brokerage measures focus on local or individual networks, missing the brokers who connect others across communities, such as market levels. This study introduces a robust measure that uncovers, scores, and positions these community brokers. Methods We used network data aggregated from numerous investigations related to 1,800 criminal entrepreneurs operating in Western Canada. After uncovering the communities using the Leiden algorithm, we developed a community brokerage score that assesses individual potential reach and control at the meso level, and that accounts for individual position changes due to different community structures. We examined how the score relates to brokerage and structural hole measures as well as seriousness of involvement in criminality. Results We found that the illicit network studied has a strong and stable community structure, and community brokers form about 9% of the population. The score developed is statistically robust and is not strongly related to network and structural hole measures, which confirms the need for a novel measure that captures this strategic position in illicit and other networks. Conclusions Community brokers are especially important in illicit networks where large-scale covert coordination among criminal entrepreneurs is risky. The measure we propose is not overlapping with currently existing brokerage measures and has the potential to contribute to our understanding of how products and information flow beyond local networks, in criminology and other fields.
DOI: 10.1007/s10940-022-09549-6
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Journal of Quantitative Criminology
Document title
A Robust Measure to Uncover Community Brokerage in Illicit Networks
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