PROTON has the ambition of advancing evidenced based prevention policies on OCTNs by merging innovations in the social sciences with innovations in the technological and computational sciences.

PROTON innovations require substantial advances in the existing knowledge on organised crime and terrorist networks compared to the current state of the art. Moreover, they entail close integration among traditional academic research, innovative studies, and advanced computational capabilities.

PROTON’s activities will directly address these requirements and will not only advance prevention policies but also will increase knowledge about the processes leading to organised crime and terrorist networks.

How will PROTON innovative studies advance knowledge beyond the state of the art?

Concerning the social factors:

The literature contradicts the general idea that crimes at a later age are preceded by crimes in adolescence.

Previous studies have also demonstrated that different social and opportunity dynamics promote a career in organised crime.

PROTON will contribute to systematic analysis of the development of the careers of organised crime criminals in their social contexts by using an unprecedented, rich, and large dataset on the individual careers of organised crime offenders.

Despite their international relevance, criminal careers within mafias have been analysed by few studies. This literature is mostly based on single case studies, which emphasise cultural, opportunity and relational factors in successful mafia careers.

PROTON will conduct the first quantitative and extended analysis of the processes leading to recruitment into, and a career within, mafia-type organized crime organisations.

The terrorism literature often debates the link between socio-economic factors and radicalization and recruitment to terrorism as well as the role of the crime-terror nexus.

PROTON will examine the criminal careers of terrorists, their social embeddedness and the role played by the socio-economic factors of place in the radicalisation and recruitment processes by examining approximately 15,000 cases.

There is very limited information on the impact of existing counter-terrorism policies in Europe.

PROTON will address this gap by analysing how counter-terrorism policies impact and influence radicalisation and recruitment.

Many studies on terrorism have examined the extent to which ‘lone wolves’ are actually ‘lone’, rather than being linked with terrorist organisations. In this regard, many academics note that the Internet is unlikely to be the sole medium for radicalisation, recruitment and operationalisation.

PROTON will go much further by examining the role of the internet in radicalization and recruitment processes.

Concerning the psychological factors:

Currently, most studies on organised crime focus on the controversial concept of psychopathy.

PROTON will include new tools from neuroscience to investigate the interaction and possible imbalance between the cognitive and emotional traits of organised crime criminals.

Concerning the economic factors:

Existing studies analyse the relationship between crime and inequality and social and income mobility and crime but not their connections with organised crime.

PROTON will for the first time explore the relations among inequality, social and income mobility, and mafia presence.

In regard to terrorism, economic adversity may threaten two basic psychological needs associated with radicalisation.

  1. fear and uncertainty about the future may stimulate the need for clarity, which translate into simplistic ideologies;
  2. experiencing adversity may instil feelings of relative deprivation; such feelings are likely to restore a positive self-image. People are thus expected to endorse the feelings of moral superiority of extreme ideologies.

PROTON will explore these processes by focusing also on preceding terrorist and extremist attitudes, perceived economic adversity and social exclusion, and neighbourhood-level disadvantage.

This will be done by using uniquely combined datasets as well as in-depth interviews and file analyses on actual terrorist convicts, and the involvement of comparison groups.