Comparative Analysis of Illicit Supply Network Structure and Operations: Cocaine, Wildlife, and Sand

Magliocca, Nicholas, Torres, Aurora, Margulies, Jared, McSweeney, Kendra, Arroyo-Quiroz, Inés, Carter, Neil, Curtin, Kevin, Easter, Tara, Gore, Meredith, Hübschle, Annette, Masse, Francis, Rege, Aunshul and Tellman, Elizabeth (2021) Comparative Analysis of Illicit Supply Network Structure and Operations: Cocaine, Wildlife, and Sand. Journal of Illicit Economies and Development, 3 (1). pp. 50-73. ISSN 2516-7227

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Illicit supply networks (ISNs) are composed of coordinated human actors that source, transit, and distribute illicitly traded goods to consumers, while also creating widespread social and environmental harms. Despite growing documentation of ISNs and their impacts, efforts to understand and disrupt ISNs remain insufficient due to the persistent lack of knowledge con-necting a given ISN’s modus operandi and its patterns of activity in space and time. The core challenge is that the data and knowledge needed to integrate it remain fragmented and/or compartmentalized across disciplines, research groups, and agencies tasked with understanding or monitoring one or a few specific ISNs. One path forward is to conduct comparative analyses of multiple diverse ISNs. We present and apply a conceptual framework for linking ISN modus operandi to spatial-temporal dynamics and patterns of activity. We demonstrate this through a comparative analysis of three ISNs – cocaine, illegally traded wildlife, and illegally mined sand – which range from well-established to emergent, global to domestic in geographic scope, and fully illicit to de facto legal. The proposed framework revealed consistent traits related to geographic price structure, value capture at different supply chain stages, and key differ-ences among ISN structure and operation related to commodity characteristics and their relative illicitness. Despite the diversity of commodities and ISN attributes compared, social and environmental harms inflicted by the illicit activity consistently become more widespread with increasing law enforcement disruption. Drawing on these lessons from diverse ISNs, which varied in their histories and current sophistication, possible changes in the structure and function of nascent and/or low salience ISNs may be anticipated if future conditions or law enforcement pressure change.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Funding Information: This work was the result of a collaborative workshop held at the University of Alabama and made possible by support from the Alabama Water Institute, Alabama Transportation Institute, and the College of Arts and Sciences. NM, KM, and BT were supported by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) under funding received from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) DBI-1052875. NM, KC, and KM were supported by U.S. NSF EAGER ISN #1837698. NM and KC were supported by the U.S. NSF D-ISN #2039975. AT received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement no 846474. FM and JM received funding from ERC Advanced Investigator Grant. Number 694995. AH received funding ERC Horizon 2020. MG was supported by U.S. NSF awards CMMI-1935451; IIS-2039951, RCN-UBE-2018428.
Uncontrolled Keywords: cocaine trafficking, complex adaptive systems, environmental crime, global commodity chain, illegal sand mining, illegally traded wildlife, spatial dynamics
Subjects: F800 Physical and Terrestrial Geographical and Environmental Sciences
F900 Others in Physical Sciences
Department: Faculties > Engineering and Environment > Geography and Environmental Sciences
Depositing User: Rachel Branson
Date Deposited: 31 May 2022 13:41
Last Modified: 31 May 2022 13:45

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