Crime, Law and Social Change

, Volume 72, Issue 4, pp 419–444 | Cite as

The nature of organized crime leadership: criminal leaders in meeting and wiretap networks

  • Francesco CalderoniEmail author
  • Elisa Superchi


Criminal leaders enhance their social capital by strategically brokering information among associates. To balance security and efficiency, leaders may favor meetings instead of telephones, potentially affecting analyses relying solely on wiretap data. Yet, few studies explored criminal leaders’ use of meetings in the management of criminal groups. We analyze criminal leaders’ participation in meetings and telephone calls in four distinct investigations. For each case, we extracted meetings and wiretap networks, analyzed leaders’ network positioning and identified leadership roles through logistic regressions relying on network centrality. Results show that leaders minimize telephone use (20% missing in wiretap net-works), and act as brokers, particularly in meeting networks (betweenness 18 times higher than non-leaders). Regressions on meeting networks identify leaders more effectively than wiretap networks, with betweenness centrality as the strongest predictor of leadership. Leaders’ centrality in meetings shows their strategic brokering position and the social embeddedness of criminal groups. While meeting participation is a sign of power, it is also a social obligation that leaders can hardly minimize. This makes them more visible, with possible benefits to investigations and intelligence.



We wish to thank two anonymous reviewers, Scott Decker, David Krackhardt, Giulia Berlusconi, Elisa Bellotti, and Tomáš Diviak for the useful comments to our manuscript. This work is the result of the joint efforts by both authors. F.C. and E.S. jointly contributed to the design of the study to the data collection and to the analysis of the results. F.C. wrote the introduction and discussion, and reviewed the final manuscript.

Supplementary material


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.TranscrimeUniversità Cattolica del Sacro CuoreMilanItaly
  2. 2.Dipartimento di Sociologia e Ricerca SocialeUniversità degli Studi di Milano BicoccaMilanItaly

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