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Follow The Silk Road: How Internet Affordances Influence and Transform Crime and Law Enforcement

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Technical Report

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Naval Postgraduate School Monterey United States

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A new category of crime has emerged in the border environment that is disrupting criminal typology. This new hybrid category intermixes physical and digital elements in ways not possible in the past. Internet technologies are facilitating this criminal evolution by affording perpetrators anonymity, efficiency, and distance. New criminal uses of the Internet have resulted in investigative challenges for law enforcement, especially concerning the illegal movement of people and goods. This thesis mapped the evolution of hybrid crime using cases from the Silk Road and Silk Road 2.0, viewed through the lenses of stigmergy and affordance theory. While the research identifies challenges for law enforcement, it also uncovers methods for countering hybrid crime. I found that while criminals are opportunistic in perceiving new affordances to commit crime, law enforcement can be equally capable of countering them by removing technological barriers. Law enforcement can break down these barriers by changing mindsets, implementing smart enforcement, and relying on expertise from public-private partnerships.

Subject Categories:

  • Sociology and Law
  • Computer Systems

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