Intertwined firearms trafficking and terrorist networks
A key question for investigative and intelligence agencies is whether terrorists can easily obtain (heavy) firearms. One possible way is that they source them from arms dealers supplying traditional organised crime. With the increased number of attacks using such heavy firearms, it was important for the Dutch government to survey the Dutch situation. How do Dutch terrorists get their firearms?
Ecorys, together with Bureau Bruinsma, was contracted to map this out. After an overview was made of various theories and knowledge from practice in other countries, an innovative method was applied to Dutch police data: a social network analysis (SNA). Using personal contacts of terrorism suspects, arms dealers and firearms users, it was pieced together whether and how their networks are intertwined. This was worked out for a large case study, which focused on (illegal) firearms from a major Slovak firearms supplier.
A central group of actors in this case was identified and then scrutinised: Are they suspected of terrorism? Do they deal in weapons themselves? With whom are they in contact? And with whom are their contacts in contact? In this way, the networks of these individuals were worked out, and a statement could be made about how the networks of known firearms dealers and terrorists are intertwined. A key conclusion is that there does not seem to be a coherent terrorist network in the Netherlands. However, terrorist suspects do seem to be able to easily obtain firearms through traditional firearms dealers.
In addition to the substantive returns, this study also developed a protocol for the National Police to use in the future to conduct such ‘meta-network analyses’ in this and other areas themselves.