Artificial Intelligence Applied in the Battle Against Organized Crime

October 2021

Organized crime has been a topic of fascination in films and TV show for decades. Real and fictional members in the organized crime groups from Italy, Russia, Mexico, Columbia, China, and Japan have developed legendary status among fans and history enthusiasts, becoming romanticized and heroic in the minds of millions. However, organized criminals in the real world create innumerable destructive influences, acting as the driving force behind most of the world’s drug trafficking, human trafficking, weapons dealing, and counterfeiting. White collar criminals have kept up with the technologies and global dynamics of the 21st century, easily affording the latest equipment, materials, weapons, and expertise that will give them an edge in the world-wide market. With Dark Web communications at their fingertips, these criminals communicate, plan, and oversee illegal enterprises around the world virtually instantaneously, and in secret.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has changed many industries, including Criminal Justice, and also criminality. AI is used in criminal organizations in the same ways that it is used by legitimate companies: supply chain management, risk assessment and mitigation, personnel vetting, social media data mining, and various types of analysis and problem solving. The difference is primarily a matter of the legality or illegality of the goals of the given organization. Distribution of illicit drugs, counterfeit goods, and illegal weapons involves similar dynamics and challenges as the management of supply chains for any legal commodities. Some crime syndicates have operations on all six civilized continents, and now AI is helping them to run those operations more efficiently than ever.

Fortunately, law enforcement and private security professionals also have access to cutting edge AI technology, and they are developing new tools and techniques every year. One of the most useful applications of AI in crime fighting happens when AI is combined with link analysis chart, providing visual representations of organizational hierarchies and activities to clarify the nature of criminal networks.

AI technology enables investigators and analysts to process massive amounts of data in seconds, revealing patterns and connections that would have eluded even the brightest of human observers. In some cases, AI algorithms follow the money to reveal shell corporations used by crime syndicates to launder money. In other situations, AI mines data on the Dark Web to find communications related to criminal enterprises, identifies human trafficking rings by online purchase patterns, or tracks transportation details to chart the movements of contraband overseas. Furthermore, Open-source intelligence can leverage unstructured data to identify vulnerabilities for investigative and disruptive law enforcement measures.

At the lower levels of criminal organizations, social platforms are often used by dealers to advertise illegal wares and services in very cleverly disguised ways. Through AI, investigators can create algorithms that process millions of bits of data to find patterns in language, images, and user identities to uncover illegal activities. In optimal situations, machine learning allows AI technology to adapt to patterns, trends, and even changes in criminal organizations’ activities, targets, business strategies, and hierarchies.

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