Illicit drug trafficking: the structure of illicit networks and implications for resilience and vulnerability

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Date Commenced:
Project Supporters:

Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Project

Drug Type:
Project Members: 
Dr David Bright
Associate Dean
Professor Catherine Greenhill
Project Main Description: 

The overall aim is to examine the structure of illicit networks (drug trafficking networks) to determine areas of vulnerability and resilience. The project aims to improve existing knowledge and empirical accounts of criminal networks by employing an innovative multi-level analytic approach which incorporates structural factors, node positing effects, links between nodes, and node-level or individual factors.

Project Collaborators: External: 

Professor Carlo Morselli
University of Montreal

Design and Method: 

There are two phases to this research: (1) Social Network Analysis to describe and map the criminal network; (2) simulation modelling to test the impact of a range of law enforcement interventions.


Data collection complete. Analyses complete. Law enforcement simulations are in progress.

As part of the project, a workshop titled “Organised Crime and Criminal Networks” were held in February 2012 at UNSW.  Early results were presented at that workshop.  Workshop speakers included researchers and law enforcement agents.



Bright, D., Greenhill, C., Reynolds, M., Ritter, A. & Morselli, C. (2014). The use of actor-level attributes and centrality measures to identify key actors: A case study of an Australian drug trafficking network. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice. DOI: 10.1177/1043986214553378


Bright D. A. & Hughes, C. (2013, November).  Drugs, money and organized crime.  Paper presented at the Forensic Medicine and Science Conference, Sydney, Australia.
Bright D. A., Greenhill, C., Reynolds, M., Ritter, A., Morselli, C. (2013, October).  The use of node-level attributes and centrality measures to identify key actors: a case study of a drug trafficking network. Paper presented at the 5th Illicit Networks Workshop, Los Angeles, USA.
Bright D. A., Greenhill, C., Ritter, A., Morselli, C. (2013, September).  Dismantling and Disrupting Dark Networks: Lessons from Social Network Analysis and Computer Simulation.  Minerva Dark Networks Conference. West Point, USA
Bright D. A. (2013, June).  Disrupting drug trafficking networks: Identifying the hidden key actors.  Presented at the 2013 Drug Policy Modelling Program Symposium, Canberra, Australia.
Bright, D. A., Greenhill, C., Ritter, A., Morselli, C., Gilroy, H. (May, 2013). Multiplexity in a drug trafficking network: Using multiple types of directed ties to illuminate criminal network structure. Paper to be presented at the Conference of the International Networks of Social Network Analysis, Hamburg, Germany.

The results will shed light on poorly understood phenomena using intersecting methodologies from the social sciences and mathematics, and have the potential to lead to enhanced law enforcement capacities for detecting and dismantling these networks.

Project Research Area: 
Drug Type: 
Project Status: 
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