Military software engineers have developed a program that can predict the social structures of street gangs. Philip Ball explains how it could help fight crime.
One of the big challenges in fighting organised crime is precisely that it is organised. It is run a bit like a business, with chains of command and responsibility, different specialised “departments”, recruitment initiatives and opportunities for collaboration and trade. Their structures often make crime syndicates and gangs more able to evade attempts by law enforcers to disrupt their activities.
That’s why police forces are keen to discover how these organisations are arranged – to map the networks that link individual members. While gang structures are typically fluid and informal compared to most legitimate businesses, they are far from random. In fact, violent street gangs seem to be set up along similar lines to insurgent groups that stage armed resistance to political authority, such as guerrilla forces in areas of civil war. These kinds of organisations tend to be composed of affiliated cells, each with its own leader.
For this reason, some law-enforcement agencies are hoping to learn from military research. A team at the West Point Military Academy in the US state of New York has just released details of a software package it has developed to aid intelligence gathering by police dealing with street gangs. The program, called Orca (Organization, Relationship, and Contact Analyzer), can use real-world data acquired from arrests and the questioning of suspected gang members to deduce the network structure of a gang.
Phi Beta Iota: The Americans keep thinking of ways to avoid thinking and to avoid relying on human intelligence (HUMINT). In the 1970’s the top sociologists not bought and paid for by the banks were doing this with inter-locking boards of directors and deep secrecy. This program could be ably applied to the City of London and to Wall Street, but we cannot find any politicians with integrity — they are all “owned” by the banks. Street crime is a tiny fraction — hardly a pimple on society’s ass — in comparison to the deep cancer represented by the financial terrorists that buy entire Parliaments and other bodies to legalize their crimes against society. The program also fails to understand, as we have seen in Central America and Africa, that “organized” crime is now more of a constantly changing come as you are networks of convenience sort of challenge where elements are constantly mixing and matching and far more fluid than traditional crime analysts are able to understand without real-world experience.
UPDATE: Several alert readers have jumped in to point out that the software was probably developed in Israel and contains back doors that would allow Israel to siphon off copies of everything that ever touches any installation of the program. We hold the West Point faculty and staff in very high regard, but their counterintelligence is non-existent and they tend to be very naive, particularly about Israel and anyone remotely loyal to Israel rather than the USA.