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About this book

This book presents a multi-disciplinary investigation into extortion rackets with a particular focus on the structures of criminal organisations and their collapse, societal processes in which extortion rackets strive and fail and the impacts of bottom-up and top-down ways of fighting extortion racketeering. Through integrating a range of disciplines and methods the book provides an extensive case study of empirically based computational social science. It is based on a wealth of qualitative data regarding multiple extortion rackets, such as the Sicilian Mafia, an international money laundering organisation and a predatory extortion case in Germany. Computational methods are used for data analysis, to help in operationalising data for use in agent-based models and to explore structures and dynamics of extortion racketeering through simulations. In addition to textual data sources, stakeholders and experts are extensively involved, providing narratives for analysis and qualitative validation of models. The book presents a systematic application of computational social science methods to the substantive area of extortion racketeering. The reader will gain a deep understanding of extortion rackets, in particular their entrenchment in society and processes supporting and undermining extortion rackets. Also covered are computational social science methods, in particular computationally assisted text analysis and agent-based modelling, and the integration of empirical, theoretical and computational social science.

Table of Contents

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Introduction

Abstract
For most of us extortion rackets will never blight our lives. This is lucky given the severe financial, psychological and social consequences extortion brings with it. It is also lucky as nobody is ever very far from extortion. A recent European review of extortion racketeering found that extortion rackets exist in every EU member state and the same holds for almost all countries in the world. Whilst ubiquitous, in most countries extortion rackets are an isolated phenomenon, isolated geographically or ethnically, or reserved for a criminal underclass of prostitution, drug dealing and gambling. In the communities where extortion takes hold it wreaks havoc, destroying livelihoods, if not lives, and undermining community cohesion. At the same time, extortion rackets can establish themselves within communities completely unknown to the rest of society. This combination of longevity and invisibility is a unique feature of extortion rackets, making them an interesting social phenomenon as well as a very-hard-to-research criminological phenomenon.
Corinna Elsenbroich, David Anzola, Nigel Gilbert

Extortion Rackets as a Global Phenomenon

Frontmatter

Chapter 2. National Mafia-Type Organisations: Local Threat, Global Reach

Abstract
A first challenge in characterising and quantifying the nature and dimension of the extortion rackets phenomenon worldwide is that extortion is an umbrella concept grouping a large array of criminal practices. Extortion is often associated with long-standing and well-organised criminal organisations, such as the Italian Mafia and the Japanese Yakuza, given the amount of data and research about these criminal groups and their popularity in contemporary popular culture. Yet, a review of the different extortion practices around the world quickly makes readily available the significant diversity and complexity of the social contexts in which extortion occurs. This chapter provides a brief review of typical dynamics of extortion in different countries around the world. The main goal is, first, to summarily show the persistence and diversity of extortion rackets worldwide and, second, and most important, to contextualise the two cases analysed in the following chapters, by providing some points of contrast, regarding the social conditions of the phenomenon of extortion, as well as their academic accessibility.
David Anzola, Martin Neumann, Michael Möhring, Klaus G. Troitzsch

Chapter 3. Basic Dynamics of Extortion Racketeering

Abstract
The emergence and prevalence of systemic extortion depends on particular institutional arrangements, produced as adaptive responses of the interaction between different social actors. The following typology characterises these arrangements in six categories, involving three main social actors: criminal organisations, state and civil society. While the six categories focus on institutional arrangements that foster systemic extortion, the typology could be loosely described as presenting two categories focusing on each of the three main social actors. The predominant social actor in each category derives from the relative importance of that actor for the specific aspect of the institutional arrangements addressed by each category. The major contribution of this typology is the acknowledgement that extortion rackets cannot be understood without looking at the dimensions of the political environment they exist in (i.e. state) and the social environment (i.e. civil society, which comprises potential and actual victims). Following the six categories, the main factors allowing for the emergence and persistence of systemic extortion are grouped into socio-spatial, socio-normative and socio-cognitive factors.
David Anzola

Society and the State

Frontmatter

Chapter 4. Social Norms and Extortion Rackets

Abstract
Norms, in their many forms, are all around us. The social world that we inhabit is saturated with them. As others have elegantly put it, ‘from forceps to grave, human life is wrapped in a tightly woven tapestry of rules, standards, and expectations that govern every aspect of social behaviour’ (Anderson & Dunning, 2014). Not only are norms widespread, but they also have powerful effects on our individual and social behaviour, often for the better but sometimes for the worse (Ellickson, 1991; Fehr & Fischbacher, 2004; Henrich et al., 2001). Actions taken within the context of protection rackets are arguably not exempt. Domain-specific norms, regarding paying or supporting behaviour, and domain-general norms such as reciprocity and fairness may shape behaviour there too.
Áron Székely, Giulia Andrighetto, Luis G. Nardin

Chapter 5. Legal Norms Against the Italian Mafia

Abstract
Legislation expressly aimed at combating mafia-type crimes in the Italian criminal system has long represented a specific and distinctive set of rules, comprising provisions of criminal law, procedural criminal law and penitentiary law, and including provisions of administrative and civil law of a more preventive kind. However, the law constitutes only one aspect of the complex Italian anti-mafia policy, which indeed results from the combination of several factors, such as human losses, political choices, legislative solutions, evolving case law and reactions of the civil society. In the international arena, among the multiple actors engaged at various levels in the fight against organised crime, the Italian position is characterised not only by the development of specific legal provisions concerning this area, but also by the widespread and active presence in the civil society of citizens, groups and associations committed to encouraging and promoting behaviours opposing the pervasive control of mafia organisations over a territory.
Vincenzo Militello

Extortion Rackets in Society

Frontmatter

Chapter 6. Mafia Methods, Extortion Dynamics and Social Responses

Abstract
This chapter is devoted to exploring both the empirical results and the policy proposals produced by the GLODERS project. Based on 631 cases of extortions, the Sicily and Calabria extortion database represents a relevant achievement in the field of the research on extortion racket and it is one of the main results of the GLODERS project. Gathering a great amount of information, our empirical analysis revealed the existence of several differences in the extortive conducts carried on within these two regions, which are presented. Moreover, the chapter introduces the legislation related to the crime of extortion. Social and legal responses to the phenomenon are then discussed.
Antonio La Spina, Vincenzo Militello, Giovanni Frazzica, Valentina Punzo, Attilio Scaglione

Chapter 7. An Agent-Based Model of Extortion Racketeering

Abstract
Mafias can be considered as criminal organisations that are in the business of producing, promoting, and selling protection. Here, we describe the Palermo Scenario, an agent-based model of protection rackets aimed to deepen our understanding of protection rackets, and help policymakers to evaluate methods for destabilising them. Additionally, since the system is explicitly specified, we can use it to investigate the entire causal pathway from cause to effect: not only from actions to Mafia destabilisation, but also the intermediate actions along the path and actors’ internal mental representations among the population.
Luis G. Nardin, Giulia Andrighetto, Áron Székely, Valentina Punzo, Rosaria Conte

Chapter 8. Extortion Rackets: An Event-Oriented Model of Interventions

Abstract
The aim of this chapter is to document the event-oriented version of the NetLogo model of normative agents in extortion racket systems (ERSs). It presents a simulation model in which agents represent Mafiosi, their victims, the police, the public (mainly in their role as consumers) and a court which—besides extorting and forming Mafia families, denouncing or satisfying Mafia requests, observing, arresting and convicting criminals, compensating victims from confiscated Mafia assets—send each other norm invocation messages to mutually modify their action propensities. Each agent of each type has a repertoire of norms whose salience it calculates from its memory before deciding to take action; besides agents also calculate the utility of the actions available in the current situation. The current version of the model is event oriented such that each simulation run tells a story of the rise and possible fall of a Mafia regime in a virtual region. The results of a large number of runs are analysed to find out under which parameter constellations governing the normative behaviour of the software agents the model replicates the macro observations in a number of provinces in Southern Italy which are derived from a database of more than 600 actual cases in Sicily and Calabria extracted from police and judicial documents generated during the prosecution of these cases. Thus it is possible to show that certain parameterisations of the model generate extortion databases similar to the empirical database although the richness of information generated by the model is much greater than what can be documented empirically. Finally the simulation model is applied to analysing strategies and their effect on the behaviour of the agents and the system as a whole.
Klaus G. Troitzsch

Chapter 9. Survey Data and Computational Qualitative Analysis

Abstract
The available survey data sources can only give an incomplete access to the empirical problem under consideration for the reasons discussed in more depth in Sect. 12.​1, but anyway three surveys can be used as sources for finding out which norm orientations prevail in the regions under consideration in GLODERS and which are the propensities and frequencies of norm-related actions.
Klaus G. Troitzsch

The Criminal Organisation

Frontmatter

Chapter 10. Text Data and Computational Qualitative Analysis

Abstract
Parts II and III of this book focussed on the interaction between state and civil society in an extortion racket system. In this part of the book we turn to the third corner of the typology discussed in Chap. 3, the criminal organisation itself. We approach the investigation of the modes of organisational behaviour in the crime field from its reverse angle: the breakdown of a criminal network in an escalation of intra-group violence. This chapter discusses background literature, the empirical basis of the investigation into the criminal organisation and a conceptual model extracted from the data. Chapter 11 presents an agent-based model resulting from this empirical basis.
Martin Neumann, Ulf Lotzmann

Chapter 11. A Simulation Model of Intra-organisational Conflict Regulation in the Crime World

Abstract
This chapter can be seen as a sequel to Chap. 10, where the qualitative analysis of texts from police investigations about a criminal network was transformed into a conceptual model of the dynamics that led to the violent breakdown of this network. This conceptual model was transformed and formalised into a simulation model, which is described in this chapter. Subsequently, results gained from simulation experiments with the model are presented.
Ulf Lotzmann, Martin Neumann

Synthesis and Conclusion

Frontmatter

Chapter 12. Calibration and Validation

Abstract
The aim of this chapter is to summarise the problems incurred during the phases of calibrating and validating the extortion racket models used by the GLODERS project. The chapter starts with the discussion of the data availability and summarises shortly the contents of Sect. 4.​3. It continues with a discussion of what parameterisation, calibration, sensitivity analysis and validation have to do with each other and ends up with a discussion of the validity of the GLODERS models.
Klaus G. Troitzsch, Luis G. Nardin, Giulia Andrighetto, Áron Székely, Valentina Punzo, Rosaria Conte, Corinna Elsenbroich

Chapter 13. Conclusion

Abstract
This concluding chapter summarises how the book provides an integrated analysis of the phenomenon of extortion rackets. The preceding chapters offered: a typology of extortion rackets; a model of the interdependency of state and civil society; a model of the internal workings of a criminal extortion organization; a methodological integration of various data sources on extortion rackets; and an enhanced understanding of extortion rackets as socio-economic systems.
Corinna Elsenbroich, David Anzola, Nigel Gilbert

Backmatter

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