Volume 31 (2004) Issue 2 Pages 131-152
Two contrasting hypotheses about criminal organisations are that they will be either strongly hierarchical with recognisable differentiation between components of their organisational structure or that they will be loose networks of associates with no discernable organisation. Six indices of organisational morphology were therefore derived from Social Network Analysis measures to explore the different organisational structures of criminal groups and networks.
These were used to classify 12 drug-dealer networks, 11 property crime networks and six hooligan networks. Partial Order Scalogram analysis of these 29 groups across the six measures showed that there were a wide range of group structures, ranging from very loose networks without even central key figures through to highly structured networks that contained all six indicators of structure. Within this framework two dominant axes were identified, along which the degree of structure varied. One was proposed as a product of the size of the group, the other as a product of the centrality of leadership. This allowed three types of criminal organisation to be specified, A-ad hoc groups, B-oligarchies and, C-organised criminals. These different types tended to relate to group size with A as the smallest and C the largest with on average almost twice as many members. These different types of group carry different implications for group process and investigative interventions.
Although there was a tendency for the hooligan groups to be less structured and the drug networks to be the most structured, most forms of structure were found for all types of criminal activity. The study therefore raises a number of important questions about what gives rise to these variations in organisational morphology and the implications the variations have for the conduct of the crimes, their investigation and methods for reducing the effectiveness of criminal networks.