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To what extent do we approach organized crime effectively? At IAS, we aim to fundamentally understand how organized crime affects society and how to make democracy and the rule of law more resilient to especially its most corrosive effects.

Criminal networks show many characteristics of complex adaptive systems, such as self-organisation and extreme resilience. Drawing on expertise from a range of disciplines such as law, criminology, sociology, computational science, artificial intelligence and statistics, we can begin to understand the patterns, trends and effects of criminal activity by disentangling the complexity of this resilient ‘ecosystem’.

The goal of this research programme is to obtain a more data-driven perspective on the impact of crime on society based on computational models that will allow us to anticipate criminal activities. We also assess the (un)intended effects of possible interventions against criminal activity. Finally, we explore potential alternative interventions.



This project aims to uncover the dynamics of criminal network adaptation. Understanding these complex dynamics helps us better understand the effectiveness of different criminal network disruption strategies. The team aims to model the behaviour of agents before and after arrests of their co-conspirators. These models are derived from a unique set of real time law enforcement data and then applied to simulate their emergent behaviour. State-of-the-art computational analysis methods are developed in support of this project to gain insights how the complex dynamics occurred. The computational models and analysis techniques combined will allow for increased effectiveness of contemporary law enforcement strategies. In the end visualisation methods will be developed to bridge the gap from theory to practice, and jointly develop novel strategies on the research outcome.


COMCRIM is an interdisciplinary research project conducted by a public-private consortium into crimes that undermine democracy and the rule of law in and via the Netherlands (ondermijning). Over 28 scholars from more than nine disciplines jointly examine the systemic factors of organized crime. Public and private partners collaborate to detect such crime in unconventional data sources such as banking records, follow the money and discern criminal networks, patterns, and effects. Altogether, our COMCRIM community thereby seeks to ensure proactive, evidence-based interventions that foster resilience of democracy and the rule of law.

Previous project: Modelling opponent emergent behaviour (MOEB)

This joint research project at IAS and TNO aims to identify and understand the underlying processes that yield the adaptivity and resilience of insurgent and terrorist organisations. We observe and try to understand the emergent patterns of growth, decline, splits and mergers between insurgents and terrorists. The organisations can be described and analysed as complex, self-organized structures that inhabit social interactions, resource constraints and cognitive processes. To grasp this self-organizing process, we focus on various research lines with the application of quantitative methodologies that aim to develop more realistic models.

Research Lead

Prof. dr. mr. drs. J.E.B. Coster van Voorhout

Professor of Empirical Legal Studies at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Associate Professor in (International) Criminal Law and Human Rights at Maastricht University

Group Members

Prof. dr. T.M. (Tom) van Engers

Faculty of Law

Juridisch Kennismanagement

Prof. Z.J.M.H. (Zeno) Geradts

Faculty of Science

Informatics Institute

Dr. R. (Rick) Quax

Faculty of Science

Informatics Institute