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Modelling the PRocesses leading to Organised crime and TerrOrist Networks

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - PROTON (Modelling the PRocesses leading to Organised crime and TerrOrist Networks)

Reporting period: 2018-04-01 to 2019-09-30

Organised crime and terrorist networks pose a systemic threat to societies, and crime control policies alone seem to be insufficient to hinder their development. The reduction of opportunities has emerged as a complementary and effective strategy with which these threats can be tackled. In this context, PROTON is based on the concept that a detailed knowledge of the processes giving rise to organised crime and terrorist networks can help to improve international, national and local policies and to develop effective reduction strategies. By responding to the three main priorities of the European Agenda on Security – terrorism, organised crime and cybercrime - PROTON adopted an innovative and multidisciplinary approach to analyse the social, psychological and economic factors leading to organised crime and terrorist networks and their relations with cyberspace.

The overall objective of the project is to improve existing knowledge on the processes of recruitment to organised crime and terrorist networks through the integration between social and computational sciences. This will result in the development of agent-based simulations (PROTON-S) and PROTON Wizard, which will support the creation of evidence-based policies at the international, national and local level. In particular, PROTON-S simulation will incorporate the factors leading to the radicalization and recruitment to organised crime and terrorist networks and create virtual societies where these processes will be reproduced; PROTON Wizard will operationalise the results allowing policy and decision makers to test the impact of different scenarios on organised crime and terrorist networks recruitment.

The final results of the action have produced:
1. PROTON-S, a set of distinct ABMs which simulate the processes leading to the recruitment into organized crime and terrorist networks, respectively, and test the impact of specific policy interventions.
2. PROTON Wizard, a user-friendly web interface which allows policy makers and interested stakeholders to easily navigate through the results of PROTON-S and test different scenarios. The goal is to allow policy makers to access the output of the simulations via a clear interface and without the help of specialised assistance.
3. Policy recommendations for recruitment into Organised Crime and Terrorist Networks.
In the first half of the project, research partners focused on data collection and analyses of the factors leading to organised crime (WP1), terrorism (WP2) and their connections with cyberspace and cybercrime (WP3). They produced systematic reviews of the existing literature as well as innovative studies from the social, psychological and economic perspectives and published public deliverables D1.1 D2.1 and D3.1.

In the second half of the project, the activities focused primarily on laboratory experiments and the development of PROTON-S and PROTON Wizard, the final project assets planned for the final part of the action. During this period, WP4 and the results of the research converge to develop the outputs for the finalization of PROTON-S and PROTON Wizard. At the Third Consortium Meeting, preliminary results were presented and the decision to produce a manual for policy makers was taken. The manual is addressed to policy makers and practitioners who want to set and test policies against potential recruitment into organized crime and terrorist networks.

Ethical, societal, and legal implications have been constantly monitored throughout the project (WP6), and societal impact assessments informed the partners of the possible impact of their research. In addition, an Ethical and Legal Advisory Group (ELAG) independently reviewed PROTON’s results to ensure the compliance with ethics requirements.

The Consortium has promoted the dissemination of project’s results by participating in conferences, workshops and events and seeking synergies with other projects to optimise communication activities and foster future collaborations. The project has reached an estimate of 90,000 people in the whole period. Partners met during the Kick off meeting, the first, second and third Consortium meeting to enhance cooperation and ensure the smooth implementation of the project activities. Furthermore, workshops were organized among partners involved in specific work-packages. PROTON’s communication and dissemination strategy has increased the project visibility by raising awareness of its activities in the community of policy makers, public authorities and security scholars and professionals.
The exploitation plan has been developed to identify opportunities both intra and extra consortium to spread the project results to the target end users. The PROTON Wizard which embeds the results of ABM simulations will be presented to side meetings organized in collaboration with the policy makers of the project. As an additional exploitation tool, the Consortium developed an introductory manual on how to use ABM simulations for future research.
Going beyond the state of the art, PROTON has advanced prevention policies on organised crime and terrorist networks by integrating traditional academic research, innovative studies, and advanced computational capabilities.

Traditional approaches rely on standard statistical methods to extrapolate data on crime occurrence and attempt to predict future events. This method assumes that crime is more likely to occur in the same locations where it occurred in the past, and it does not consider the specific risk factors that influence crime events.
Since the traditional method is not always suitable, PROTON has adopted an innovative theory-driven and empirically-based set of agent-based models – developed through a process of participatory modelling with stakeholders. The models explored the dynamics of organised crime and terrorist networks and the recruitment processes essential for the development of these groups.
On the one hand, PROTON Simulations (PROTON-S) have advanced the state of the art by including the factors that contribute to the formation of, as well as radicalization and recruitment to, organised crime and terrorist networks. On the other hand, PROTON Wizard has provided policy and decision making users with a user-friendly tool with which they can test the impact of social and environmental interventions on different scenarios.

PROTON results are coherent to the expectations:
1. Advancement in the knowledge on the social, psychological and economic factors leading to Organised crime and terrorist networks, including their connection with cybercrime and cyberspace.
2. Development of the first ABM simulations on the processes leading to organised crime and terrorist networks and the recruitment of individuals into these networks. The simulations have enabled better evidence-based policies and will stimulate further innovation.
3. Development of the first support tool for policymakers (PROTON Wizard). This tool allows easy access to the most advanced scientific research to non-scientists and support better policies at the international, national and local level.

Finally, PROTON has helped help policy makers to go beyond traditional mono-directional crime control policies and develop a wide range of innovative policies at the international, national and local level. Once implemented, these policies will make the Union a more secure area, improving its competitiveness at the same time.
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