Agent-Based Modelling and its applications to organised crime and terrorism.

Agent-Based Modelling (ABM) is a computational method that enables a researcher to create, analyse, and experiment models composed of agents interacting within an environment. Agents are usually defined as autonomous systems that behave on the basis of mechanisms and representations incorporated into them. ABM consists of creating a simplified representation of the target system or the phenomenon under study that serves to express how it operates. This model may be used to evaluate how different initial conditions and agents’ behavioural mechanisms affect the model’s outcomes, thereby enabling policy makers to analyse the effects of different policies in silico before intervening on the real system.

ABM’s main advantages in simulating social systems are:

  • it provides operational platforms where theories are converted into falsifiable hypotheses and experimental laboratories where theories are gradually and thoroughly controlled;
  • it represents individual and heterogeneous social entities as agents (i.e. human individuals, groups and institutions) and their nonlinear interactions;
  • it represents multiple scales of analysis, ranging from agents (i.e., micro-level) to society (i.e., macro-level);
  • it captures structures emerging from the nonlinear interactions among individual agents.

ABM approaches represent an advancement in the way that Criminologists have examined a variety of crimes from different perspectives, but only a few studies have used ABM to understand organised crime and terrorist networks.

PROTON partner CNR LABSS has specific experience in the development and application of ABM and this unique approach to organised crime and terrorist networks.

PROTON will develop a new simulation, PROTON-S, that will enable assessment of how environmental, social, psychological, and economic changes may affect recruitment. For example, the models will address questions such as: will changes in immigration policies, social integration and/or social cohesion affect recruitment to and/or involvement with organised crime and terrorist networks?

The ABM experiments will allow application of the knowledge gained throughout the project in a flexible way that overcomes the many obstacles that prevent large-scale field experiments. The outputs of PROTON’s ABM experiments will enable policy-makers to assess the impact of different policy scenarios on the dynamics of recruitment and radicalisation to organised crime and terrorist networks groups.