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Protector's Choice: An Application of Protection Theory to Somali Piracy

NCJ Number
British Journal of Criminology Volume: 54 Issue: 5 Dated: September 2014 Pages: 741-764
Anja Shortland; Federico Varese
Date Published
September 2014
24 pages
This study explains the variation in piracy along the coastlands of Somalia by drawing upon Protection Theory and a new data set of piracy incidents.
Protection theory focuses on the dynamics that underlie the protection of criminal enterprises by those who have the power and influence to counter the criminal enterprise, but instead choose to protect it for self-serving reasons. Along various coastland areas of Somalia, these "protectors" of piracy are clans, warlords, or religious groups. In essence, these ruling groups and the individuals leading them run profit-maximizing protection businesses that enable pirates to operate in their domains without restraint. Under these dynamics of protection, the analysis of the current study focuses on conditions that favor the protection of piracy by ruling groups. It focuses first on whether the protection of legitimate economic enterprises or the protection of piracy as an economic enterprise is the most self-serving choice of local elite. The authors note that the observed pirate anchorages are cut off from regional trade routes and their economic fruits. They then discuss what drives changes in the intensity of piracy in these piracy-prone locations, followed by an examination of the effect of political turn-over in established pirate anchorages during the period 2005 to 2012. The study concludes that the clan-based structure of politics in Somalia prevents the emergence of a unified state that thrives on the protection of legitimate economic enterprise that benefits large segments of the population. Territorial challenges and electoral competition do not present opportunities for growth and do not mobilize the population in a national or regional project that advances the living conditions of a large segment of the population. The authors thus argue for "alternative livelihoods" policies targeted at the community through development assistance that will promote access to markets, the construction of roads, and the promotion of maritime infrastructure that builds trade. The study's data and methodology are described. 4 tables, 3 figures, 47 references, and a listing of periodicals, media reports, web pages, and interviews