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Literature Review on Upper Level Drug Trafficking

NCJ Number
Nicholas Dorn; Michael Levi; Leslie King
Date Published
63 pages
This report from the United Kingdom presents a review of the international research literature focusing on upper level drug trafficking.
The goals of the literature review were to describe the criminal organizations that are active in upper level drug trafficking; to estimate a typology of these organizations; to analyze changes over time; and to assess the impacts of specific interventions on specific types of drug trafficking organizations. The literature review included the published and unpublished literature over the past 10 years in English, French, Dutch, German, Italian, and Spanish covering upper level drug trafficking. The analysis indicates that upper level drug markets are involved in networking and transactions between three main types of traffickers: politico-military traffickers, business criminals, and adventurers. The report focuses on what the literature suggests about the positioning of each type of organization within the drug market, their degrees of permanence, their typical business practices, and their main vulnerabilities to law enforcement. The evidence suggests that the ways of conducting business and vulnerabilities to law enforcement vary by type of organization, yet there are overlapping tendencies. In terms of vulnerabilities, the literature indicates that drug trafficking organizations learn quickly from past mistakes and their transnational nature makes it increasingly easy to learn from one another’s experience. Indeed, the research suggests that many traffickers consider their risk low for law enforcement contact. The authors report on ways to create and take advantage of potential vulnerabilities of each of the three types of traffickers. Future research should focus on the motivation and recruitment into drug trafficking via biographical research, case studies, and role playing. Footnotes, references