Co-funded by the European Union

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PROTOCOL: Organised crime groups: A systematic review ofindividual‐level risk factors related to recruitment

Calderoni F, Superchi E, Comunale T, Campedelli GM, Marchesi M, Frualdo N.
Campbell Systematic Reviews. 2019; 15:e1022.

This systematic review has two main objectives:

  • Objective 1: Summarise the empirical evidence on the risk factors associated with the recruitment into OCG.
  • Objective 2: Assess the relative strength of the risk factors across different types of factors, types of OCGs, and countries.
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Life-Course Criminal Trajectories of Mafia Members

Gian Maria Campedelli, Francesco Calderoni, Tommaso Comunale & Cecilia Meneghini
Crime & Delinquency (2019)

Through a novel data set comprising the criminal records of 11,138 convicted mafia offenders, we compute criminal career parameters and trajectories through group-based trajectory modeling. Mafia offenders report prolific and persistent careers (16.1 crimes over 16.5 years on average), with five distinct trajectories (low frequency, high frequency, early starter, moderate persistence, high persistence). While showing some similarities with general offenders, the trajectories of mafia offenders also exhibit significant differences, with several groups offending well into their middle and late adulthood, notwithstanding intense criminal justice sanctions. These patterns suggest that several mafia offenders are life-course persisters and career criminals and that the involvement in the mafias is a negative turning point extending the criminal careers beyond those observed in general offenders.

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Evolutionary dynamics of organised crime and terrorist networks

Luis A. Martinez-Vaquero, Valerio Dolci & Vito Trianni
Scientific Reports 9, Article number: 9727 (2019)

Crime is pervasive into modern societies, although with different levels of diffusion across regions. Its dynamics are dependent on various socio-economic factors that make the overall picture particularly complex. While several theories have been proposed to account for the establishment of criminal behaviour, from a modelling perspective organised crime and terrorist networks received much less attention. In particular, the dynamics of recruitment into such organisations deserve specific considerations, as recruitment is the mechanism that makes crime and terror proliferate. We propose a framework able to model such processes in both organised crime and terrorist networks from an evolutionary game theoretical perspective. By means of a stylised model, we are able to study a variety of different circumstances and factors influencing the growth or decline of criminal organisations and terrorist networks, and observe the convoluted interplay between agents that decide to get associated to illicit groups, criminals that prefer to act on their own, and the rest of the civil society.

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Simulazione Agent-Based dell’Affiliazione

(Publication in Italian)

Il Laboratorio per la Simulazione Sociale basata su agenti è in procinto di realizzare due simulazioni, informate da evidenza statistica ed empirica, dei processi di affiliazione e reclutamento per il crimine organizzato e per il terrorismo, mettendo a frutto una lunga esperienza nel settore degli agenti distribuiti ed eterogenei, che permettono di modellare i fenomeni sociali in modo più realistico.

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Interoceptive sensibility tunes risk-taking behaviour when body-related stimuli come into play

Gerardo Salvato, Gabriele De Maio & Gabriella Bottini
Scientific Reports 9, Article number: 2396 (2019)

In everyday life, we continuously make decisions, assuming the risk by making choices on material possessions or our body. Bodily signals may support the decision-making process, informing usabout possible outcomes. Sensibility for such internal bodily changes influences the way we perceive the environment, and it can boost the body-related stimuli processing. Thus, the question arises of whether the individual sensibility to interoceptive signals modulates decision-making in the presence of biological stimuli. To test this hypothesis, we administered 50 healthy subjects with the Balloon Analogue Risk Task, in which participants were required to inflate a virtual balloon, and a modified version of it, in which they inflated a virtual body. We found that interoceptive sensibility predicted risk taking behaviour only in the presence of body-related stimuli. Our results provided new evidence on the role of interoceptive sensibility in complex cognitive functions, such as risk-taking behaviour, which impacts the way we act within our society.

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Terrorism, adversity and identity

Researchers from the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement brought together quantitative as well as a qualitative data on the characteristics and life histories of suspects of terrorist offenses in the Netherlands as well as quantitative and qualitative data on a control group of suspects from traditional criminal offenses. This report is an extensive presentation of the results of the qualitative study. It is intended as an elaboration of the relation between socio-economic deprivation, adversity and terrorism that has been reported in the literature and that was confirmed in our quantitative study.

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Countering Protection Rackets Using Legal and Social Approaches: An Agent-Based Test

Áron Székely, Luis G. Nardin, and Giulia Andrighetto
Complexity, Volume 2018, Article ID 3568085, 16 pages

Protection rackets cause economic and social damage across the world. States typically combat protection rackets using legal strategies that target the racketeers with legislation, strong sentencing, and increasing the presence and involvement of police officers. Nongovernmental organizations, conversely, focus on the rest of the population and counter protection rackets using a social approach. These organisations attempt to change the actions and social norms of community members with education, promotional campaigns, and discussions. We use an agent-based model, which draws on established theories of protection rackets and combines features of sociological and economic perspectives to modelling social interactions, to test the effects of legal and social approaches. We find that a legal approach is a necessary component of a policy approach, that social only approaches should not be used because they lead to large increases in violence, and that a combination of the two works best, although even this must be used carefully.

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Learning Dynamics and Norm Psychology Supports Human Cooperation in a Large-Scale Prisoner’s Dilemma on Networks

Realpe-Gómez, J., Vilone, D., Andrighetto G., Nardin L. G., Montoya, J. A.
Games 2018, 9, 90.

In this work, we explore the role of learning dynamics and social norms in human cooperation on networks. We study the model recently introduced in [Physical Review E, 97, 042321 (2018)] that integrates the well-studied Experience Weighted Attraction learning model with some features characterizing human norm psychology, namely the set of cognitive abilities humans have evolved to deal with social norms. We provide further evidence that this extended model—that we refer to as Experience Weighted Attraction with Norm Psychology—closely reproduces cooperative patterns of behavior observed in large-scale experiments with humans. In particular, we provide additional support for the finding that, when deciding to cooperate, humans balance between the choice that returns higher payoffs with the choice in agreement with social norms. In our experiment, agents play a prisoner’s dilemma game on various network structures: (i) a static lattice where agents have a fixed position; (ii) a regular random network where agents have a fixed position; and (iii) a dynamic lattice where agents are randomly re-positioned at each game iteration. Our results show that the network structure does not affect the dynamics of cooperation, which corroborates results of prior laboratory experiments. However, the network structure does seem to affect how individuals balance between their self-interested and normative choices.

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Preventing violent radicalization of youth through dialogic evidence-based policies

Aiello, E., Puigvert, L., & Schubert, T. (2018).
International Sociology, 33(4), 435–453.

Radicalization of youth leading to violent extremism in the form of terrorism is an urgent problem considering the rise of young people joining extremist groups of different ideologies. Previous research on the impact of counter-terrorism polices has highlighted negative outcomes such as stigmatizing minority groups. Drawing on qualitative research conducted under the PROTON project (2016–2019) by CREA-UB on the social and ethical impact of counter-terrorism policies in six EU countries, the present article presents and discusses the ways in which actions characterized by creating spaces for dialogue at the grassroots level are contributing to prevent youth violent radicalization. The results highlight four core elements underlying these spaces for dialogue: providing guidance to be safe in the exploration of extremist messages and violent radicalization; the rejection of violence; that dialogue is egalitarian; and that relationships are built on trust so that adolescents and young adults feel confident to raise their doubts. If taken into account, these elements can serve to elaborate dialogic evidence-based policies. The policies which include a dialogue between the scientific evidence and the people affected by them once implemented, achieve positive social impact.

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What are the social, economic, psychological and environmental risk factors that lead to radicalization and recruitment to terrorism?

Yael Litmanovitz, David Weisburd, Badi Hasisi, Michael Wolfowicz
The Campbell Collaboration (2017)

The primary objectives of this systematic review are to provide information that can help in answering important questions regarding the risk factors associated with radicalization and recruitment to terrorism. Namely, the primary objectives of this review are to identify and collate the different macro and micro risk factors which are grounded in empirical research and for which there is evidence to support their characterization as risk factors, and for which there is evidence regarding the extent to which they are significant. The review aims to provide (where possible), meta-analyses of the different risk factors. As such, this review seeks to explore and identify:

1a) What are the social, economic, psychological, and environmental risk factors associated with radicalization?
1b) What are the social, economic, psychological and environmental risk factors associated with recruitment? What are the shared and differentiating risk factors for the two outcomes of radicalization and recruitment?
2) To what extent are identified risk factors significant and what are their effect sizes?

In addition, the review’s secondary objectives are to:

1) Provide guidance for a secondary systematic review that will focus on anti-radicalisation interventions and how risk factors can be mitigated.
2) Provide data and inputs in the form of effect sizes (such as risk ratios) to be used in the development of agent based modelling.

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What are the social, economic and psychological risk factors that lead to recruitment to organised crime groups?

Francesco Calderoni, Gian Maria Campedelli, Tommaso Comunale, Martina Marchesi, Alexander Kamprad
The Campbell Collaboration (2017)

As for the primary objectives, the review aims at exploring and investigating the following research questions:

1. What are the evidence-based social, economic and psychological driving factors and processes to recruitment to OCGs?

2. As regards the three driving factors, what are the most relevant risk factors?

3. Do evidence-based findings confirm the importance of social, economic and/or psychological factors as primary driving factors of recruitment to OCGs?

Furthermore, the secondary objective of this systematic review is to:

4. Use data to develop agent-based models.

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