Dr Giulia Berlusconi



My qualifications

PhD Criminology
Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore
MA Applied Social Sciences
Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore
BA Sociology and Criminology
Università di Bologna


Research interests

Research projects


Postgraduate research supervision



This paper investigates the impact of the targeting of key players by law enforcement on the structure, communication strategies, and activities of a drug trafficking network. Data are extracted from judicial court documents. The unique nature of the investigation - which saw a key player being arrested mid-investigation but police monitoring continuing for another year - allows to compare the network before and after targeting. This paper combines a quantitative element where network statistics and exponential random graph models are used to describe and explain structural changes over time, and a qualitative element where the content of wiretapped conversations is analysed. After law enforcement targeting, network members favoured security over efficiency, although criminal collaboration continued after the arrest of the key player. This paper contributes to the growing literature on the efficiency-security trade-off in criminal networks, and discusses policy implications for repressive policies in illegal drug markets.

Alberto Aziani, Giulia Berlusconi, Luca Giommoni (2019)A Quantitative Application of Enterprise and Social Embeddedness Theories to the Transnational Trafficking of Cocaine in Europe, In: Deviant Behavior Taylor & Francis (Routledge)

Illegal enterprise and social embeddedness theories have highlighted the importance of market forces and social factors, respectively, for analyzing organized crime and organized criminal activities. This paper empirically demonstrates the joint explanatory power of these respective theories in the case of the transnational trafficking of cocaine. It does so by conceptualizing transnational cocaine trafficking as a network of relationships among countries; a network whose structure reflects the actions of manifold organized criminal groups. The analysis utilizes exponential random graph models to analyze quantitative data on cocaine trafficking which are ordinarily difficult to capture in empirical research. The analysis presented focuses on a set of 36 European countries. The results yield insights into the nature of the relationship among economic incentives, social ties, geographic features and corruption, and how, in turn, this relationship influences the structure of the transnational cocaine network and the modi operandi of cocaine traffickers.

Luca Giommoni, Giulia Berlusconi, Alberto Aziani (2021)Interdicting International Drug Trafficking: a Network Approach for Coordinated and Targeted Interventions, In: European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research Springer Nature

There is a relative dearth of literature on both the effects of cross-border interdictions and the impact of different types of interventions on international drug trafficking. This study identifies the main trafficking routes for cocaine and heroin, along with comparing the disruptive effects induced by targeted and non-coordinated interventions. It adopts a social network approach to identify the routes along which cocaine and heroin are trafficked, and then simulates the impact of different interdiction strategies on these two trafficking networks. The findings indicate that targeting countries based on their respective positions in the networks, as opposed to on the basis of the quantity of drugs exchanged, is more likely to disrupt drug flows. More specifically, concentrating law enforcement resources on countries with several incoming or outgoing trafficking connections, or those countries that mediate between producer, transit and consumer countries, would appear to be particularly effective in this regard. Interventions focused on specific trafficking routes are also likely to be effective if these routes have high edge betweenness centrality scores. This study contributes to extant understanding on the vulnerability of cocaine and heroin international trafficking networks, and, moreover, demonstrates that empirically-driven strategies are potentially more effective at interdicting international trafficking than non-strategic and non-coordinated interventions.

Serena Favarin, Giulia Berlusconi, Alberto Aziani, Samuele Corradini (2023)Transnational trafficking networks of end-of-life vehicles and e-waste, In: Global Crime24(3)pp. 215-237 Routledge

Based on case studies and interviews, it appears that the transnational trafficking of various waste types follows distinct paths. However, this information only provides a partial view of the global waste trafficking network, as it has never been studied by combining all the known illegal flows of different waste types. To address this gap, we analysed data from the Basel Convention National Reports to reconstruct networks of countries that engaged in illegal exchanges of end-of-life vehicles, e-waste, or both between 2016 and 2019. Our findings suggest that the structure of these networks and the countries involved in the trafficking vary depending on the waste type, with some similarities. While there are a few reciprocal ties, illegal end-of-life vehicles and e-waste typically move in one direction between countries. Most illegal flows occur from the Global North to the Global South, but trafficking also takes place within each of these regions.

Luca Giommoni, Giulia Berlusconi, G.J Melendez-Torrez (2020)Characterising the structure of the largest online commercial sex network in the UK: observational study with implications for STI prevention, In: Culture, Health & Sexuality Routledge

This study analyses large-scale online data to examine the characteristics of a national commercial sex network of off-street female sex workers and their male clients to identify implications for public health policy and practice. We collected sexual contact information from the largest online community dedicated to reviewing sex workers’ services in the UK. We built the sexual network using reviews reported between January 2014 and December 2017. We then quantified network parameters using social network analysis measures. The network is composed of 6477 vertices with 59% of them concentrated in a giant component clustered around London and Milton Keynes. We found minimal disassortative mixing by degree between sex workers and their clients, and that a few clients and sex workers are highly connected whilst the majority only have one or few sexual contacts. Finally, our simulation models suggested that prevention strategies targeting both sex workers and clients with high centrality scores were the most effective in reducing network connectedness and average closeness centrality scores, thus limiting the transmission of STIs.

Giulia Berlusconi (2017)Social Network Analysis and Crime Prevention, In: B Leclerc, EU Savona (eds.), Crime Prevention in the 21st Century: Insightful approaches for Crime Prevention Initiativespp. 129-141 Springer

Social network analysis (SNA) has proven its value in refining criminological concepts and theories to aid the understanding of social processes behind crime problems and to assist law enforcement agencies in enforcing crime. Social network methods and techniques have a great value for crime prevention as well. SNA can be adopted to study crime epidemics and gang-related violence to identify proper violence reduction strategies. Furthermore, the adoption of a network approach can help understand the etiology and dynamics of criminal groups and assess the implications of different disruption strategies, thus limiting network reorganization. This chapter discusses the network approach in criminology and its value for crime prevention.

Giulia Berlusconi, Francesco Calderoni, Nicola Parolini, Marco Verani, Carlo Piccardi (2017)Link Prediction in Criminal Networks: A Tool for Criminal Intelligence Analysis, In: PLoS ONE11(4)e0154244 Public Library of Science

The problem of link prediction has recently received increasing attention from scholars in network science. In social network analysis, one of its aims is to recover missing links, namely connections among actors which are likely to exist but have not been reported because data are incomplete or subject to various types of uncertainty. In the field of criminal investigations, problems of incomplete information are encountered almost by definition, given the obvious anti-detection strategies set up by criminals and the limited investigative resources. In this paper, we work on a specific dataset obtained from a real investigation, and we propose a strategy to identify missing links in a criminal network on the basis of the topological analysis of the links classified as marginal, i.e. removed during the investigation procedure. The main assumption is that missing links should have opposite features with respect to marginal ones. Measures of node similarity turn out to provide the best characterization in this sense. The inspection of the judicial source documents confirms that the predicted links, in most instances, do relate actors with large likelihood of co-participation in illicit activities.

Claire Hamilton, Giulia Berlusconi (2019)Counter-Terrorism in Poland, In: Contagion, Counter-Terrorism and Criminologypp. 49-74 Springer International Publishing

The low level of terrorist activity in Poland has not stopped it legislating in the wake of the recent terror attacks in Europe. This chapter begins with an outline of the historical development of counter-terrorism law and policy in Poland prior to 9/11, before providing a synopsis of post-9/11 domestic and European Union legislation. The final section examines the types of contagion according to the categories set out in Chap. 10.1007/978-3-030-12322-2_1. Recent years have seen a series of dramatic reforms of the Polish criminal justice system on the basis of the terrorist threat creating conditions for violations of the rights to liberty, privacy, and so on. In this more recent legislation, the chapter finds strong evidence in support of the ‘contagion’ thesis, particularly in a political context where core democratic guarantees appear under threat.

Francesca Menichelli, Giulia Berlusconi (2022)Reimagining Criminological Futures: New Criminologies in a Changing World, In: British journal of criminology Oxford University Press

This virtual special issue of The British Journal of Criminology has been prepared to coincide with the 2022 annual conference of the British Society of Criminology, hosted by the Department of Sociology and the Centre for Criminology at the University of Surrey. The theme of this year’s conference is ‘Reimagining Criminological Futures: New Criminologies in a Changing World’, and it is our hope that the first in-person conference of the Society in three years will offer delegates the opportunity to consider how criminology can respond to an ever wider and complex set of challenges at a time of rapid social and economic change. As it was probably inevitable in light of current events, discussions leading to the creation of this special issue largely revolved around the idea of crisis. In thinking about how criminological research has explored and interrogated recent ruptures and their impact on the world at large and on disadvantaged and marginalised constituencies, we intentionally and purposefully looked outward rather than inward, and the selection of papers you will find below reflects this approach. Brexit does not make an appearance; the Black Lives Matter movement, Covid-19 and the refugee crisis do. We took the last word of the theme literally and made an effort to include papers that study contexts rarely featured in criminological debates, and explore the challenges faced by criminological theory when applied to countries from the Global South. Most of the papers we selected are fairly recent; somewhat counterintuitively, the two oldest focus on technology. The leap from studying the introduction of a computerised management information system to talking about the challenges and opportunities for criminology in the time of Big Data shows the strength and relevance of a discipline that has always strived to make sense of what is happening in the world around us in a critical and socially conscious manner. We hope that the conversations to be had at this year’s conference will help the discipline and all of us to continue this journey.

Luca Giommoni, David Decary-Hetu, Giulia Berlusconi, Andreanne Bergeron (2023)Online and offline determinants of drug trafficking across countries via cryptomarkets, In: Crime, law, and social change Springer Nature

Drug cryptomarkets are a significant development in the recent history of illicit drug markets. Dealers and buyers can now finalize transactions with people they have never met, who could be located anywhere across the globe. What factors shape the geography of international drug trafficking via these cryptomarkets? In our current study, we test the determinants of drug trafficking through cryptomarkets by using a mix of social network analysis and a new dataset composed of self-reported transactions. Our findings contribute to existing research by demonstrating that a country's level of technological advancement increases the probability of forming trafficking connections on cryptomarkets. Additionally, we found that a country's capacity to police cryptomarkets reduces the number of trafficking connections with other countries. We also observed that trafficking on cryptomarkets is more likely to occur between countries that are geographically close. In summary, our study highlights the need to consider both online and offline factors in research on cryptomarkets.

Law enforcement agencies rely on data collected from wire taps to construct the organizational chart of criminal enterprises. Recently, a number of academics have also begun to utilise social network analysis to describe relations among criminals and understand the internal organisation of criminal groups. However, before drawing conclusions about the structure or the organisation of criminal groups, it is important to understand the limitations that selective samples such as wire taps may have on network analysis measures. Electronic surveillance data can be found in different kinds of court records and the selection of the data source is likely to influence the amount of missing information and, consequently, the results. This article discusses the impact that the selection of a specific data source for the social network analysis of criminal groups may have on centrality measures usually adopted in organised crime research to identify key players.

Claire Hamilton, Giulia Berlusconi (2018)Contagion, counterterrorism and criminology: The Case of France, In: Criminology & Criminal Justice18(5)pp. 568-584 SAGE Publications

In the burgeoning criminological literature on security, risk and preventive justice which has followed the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers, ‘contagion’ or the deleterious effect of counterterrorist policies on the ordinary criminal law has been the subject of some discussion, mostly in the context of the threat which such ‘exceptional’ policies pose to mainstream procedural values. This article seeks to build on this literature through an examination of the impact of post 9/11 counterterrorism law and policy on the ordinary criminal justice system in France. Given the extent to which counterterrorist law now encroaches on various aspects of French criminal law, the argument is made for greater criminological attention to be paid to the ‘trickle-down’ effect of extraordinary law on the ordinary business of the criminal justice system.

Francesco Calderoni, Giulia Berlusconi, Lorella Garofalo, Luca Giommoni, Federica Sarno (2015)The Italian mafias in the world: A systematic assessment of the mobility of criminal groups, In: European Journal of Criminology13(4)pp. 413-433 Sage Publications

This study complements existing literature on the mobility of criminal groups (mainly based on country case studies) with the first systematic assessment of the worldwide activities of the four main types of Italian mafias (Cosa Nostra, Camorra, ’Ndrangheta and Apulian mafias) from 2000 to 2012. Drawing from publicly available reports, a specific multiple correspondence analysis identifies the most important associations among mafias, activities, and countries. The results show that the mafias concentrate in a few countries; drug trafficking is the most frequent activity, whereas money laundering appears less important than expected; a stable mafia presence is reported in a few developed countries (mainly Germany, Canada, Australia, and the United States). The mafias show significant differences: the ’Ndrangheta tends to establish structured groups abroad, whereas the other mafias mainly participate in illicit trades.

Luca Giommoni, Alberto Aziani, Giulia Berlusconi (2017)How Do Illicit Drugs Move Across Countries? A Network Analysis of the Heroin Supply to Europe, In: Journal of Drug Issues47(2)pp. 217-240 SAGE Publications

Illicit drugs are trafficked across manifold borders before ultimately reaching consumers. Consequently, interdiction of cross-border drug trafficking forms a critical component of the European Union’s initiative to reduce drug supplies. However, there is contradictory evidence about its effectiveness, which is due, in part, to a paucity of information about how drugs flow across borders. This study uses a network approach to analyze international drug trafficking both to and within Europe, drawing on several perspectives to delineate the factors that affect how drug shipments move across borders. The analysis explicates how drug trafficking is concentrated along specific routes; moreover, we demonstrate that its structure is not random but, rather, driven by specific factors. In particular, corruption and social and geographical proximity are key factors explaining the configuration of heroin supply to European countries. This study also provides essential insights into the disruption of traffickers’ illicit activities.

Giulia Berlusconi, A Aziani, L Giommoni (2017)The determinants of heroin flows in Europe: A latent space approach, In: Social Networks. Special issue on Crime and Security Networks51pp. 104-117 Elsevier

This study utilises recent advances in statistical models for social networks to identify the factors shaping heroin trafficking in relation to European countries. First, it estimates the size of the heroin flows among a network of 61 countries, before subsequently using a latent space approach to model the presence of trafficking and the amount of heroin traded between any two given countries. Many networks, such as trade networks, are intrinsically weighted, and ignoring edge weights results in a loss of relevant information. Traditionally, the gravity model has been used to predict legal trade flows, assuming conditional independence among observations. More recently, latent space position models for social networks have been used to analyze legal trade among countries, and, mutatis mutandis, can be applied to the context of illegal trade to count both edge weights and conditional dependence among observations. These models allow for a better understanding of the generative processes and potential evolution of heroin trafficking routes. This study shows that geographical and social proximity provide fertile ground for the formation of heroin flows. Opportunities are also a driver of drug flows towards countries where regulation of corruption is weak.

M Dugato, F Calderoni, Giulia Berlusconi (2017)Forecasting Organized Crime Homicides: Risk Terrain Modeling of Camorra Violence in Naples, Italy, In: Journal of Interpersonal Violence Sage Publications

Mafia homicides are usually committed for retaliation, economic profit, or rivalry among groups. The variety of possible reasons suggests the inefficacy of a preventive approach. However, like most violent crimes, mafia homicides concentrate in space due to place-specific social and environmental features. Starting from the existing literature, this study applies the Risk Terrain Modeling approach to forecast the Camorra homicides in Naples, Italy. This approach is based on the identification and evaluation of the underlying risk factors able to affect the risk of a homicide. This information is then used to predict the most likely location of future events. The findings of this study demonstrate that past homicides, drug dealing, confiscated assets, and rivalries among groups make it possible to predict up to 85% of 2012 mafia homicides, identifying 11% of city areas at highest risk. By contrast, variables controlling for the socio-economic conditions of areas are not significantly related to the risk of homicide. Moreover, this study shows that, even in a restricted space, the same risk factors may combine in different ways, giving rise to areas of equal risk but requiring targeted remedies. These results provide an effective basis for short- and long-term targeted policing strategies against organized crime- and gang-related violence. A similar approach may also provide practitioners, policy makers, and local administrators in other countries with significant support in understanding and counteracting also other forms of violent behavior by gangs or organized crime groups.

Giulia Berlusconi (2011)“Ekblom, Paul: Crime Prevention, Security and Community Safety using the 5Is Framework,”, In: European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research17(3)pp. 249-251 Springer Verlag
Marco Dugato, Giulia Berlusconi (2015)Maritime piracy worldwide(1) Università degli Studi di Trento
Giulia Berlusconi (2014)Piracy: History, In: ME Beare (eds.), Encyclopedia of Transnational Crime and Justicepp. 301-303 SAGE Publications.

Transnational crimes involve border crossings as an integral part of the criminal activity. They also include crimes that take place in one country with consequences that significantly affect other countries. Examples include human trafficking, smuggling (arms, drugs, currency), sex slavery, non-domestic terrorism, and financial crimes. Transnational organized crime refers specifically to transnational crime carried out by organized crime syndicates. Although several encyclopedias cover aspects of transnational crime, it is this encyclopedia's emphasis on transnational justice, as well, that differentiates it from the pack. Not only do we define, describe, and chart the crimes and criminal activity, we also will include significant coverage of policing those crimes and prosecuting them within domestic and international court systems. Accessible and jargon-free and available in both print and electronic formats, the one-volume Encyclopedia of Transnational Crime and Justice will contain such entries as arms smuggling, art fraud, charity fraud, hacking and computer viruses, copyright infringement, counterfeiting, drug smuggling, extradition, human trafficking, intelligence agencies, international banking laws, Internet scams, Interpol, money laundering, pollution and waste disposal, price fixing, prosecution, sanctions, sex slavery, tax evasion, terrorism, war crimes, the World Court, and more.

Giulia Berlusconi, A Aziani, L Giommoni (2015)Does size matter? The determinants of heroin flows in Europe, In: Proceedings of 7th Annual Illicit Network Workshop

Several scholars recently investigated international drug trafficking using social network analysis (Chandra and Joba 2015; Boivin 2014). These studies do not quantify the volume of drug flows among countries thus analyzing networks with binary links. This study estimates the size of the heroin flows from and to European countries. Then, it exploits recent advances in statistical models for social networks to identify the factors shaping heroin trafficking. It first assesses the influence of such factors on the presence of a link between any two countries. It then introduces the edge weights (i.e. heroin exchanged) in the analysis, moving forward in the analysis of drug trafficking networks. The methodology adopted allows for a better understanding of the generative processes and potential evolution of trafficking routes. The study shows that opportunity theory and social proximity are keys in explaining the direction and the size of heroin flows in Europe. Moreover, it demonstrates the benefits of including weights in the analysis of drug networks.

A Aziani, Giulia Berlusconi, L Giommoni (2016)Comparing the determinants of heroin and cocaine flows to Europe using a latent space model, In: Proceedings of 8th Illicit Network Workshop 2016
Giulia Berlusconi (2017)Organised criminals and the legal economy, In: EU Savona, M Riccardi, Giulia Berlusconi (eds.), Organised Crime in European Businessespp. 4-15 Routledge

Economic activities are distributed along a continuum whose extremes are criminal activities and completely legal ones. Between these two extremes lie several other possible ways in which organised criminals engage in activities that are formally legal yet organised and managed illegally. Attention has been recently paid to legal businesses and their exploitation by criminal organisations, and to the drivers of criminal infiltration in legal businesses, including concealment of illegal activities, profit through fraud, and control of the territory.

L Giommoni, A Aziani, Giulia Berlusconi (2015)Not all roads lead to Rome: a social network analysis of the opiate trafficking along the Balkan route, In: Proceedings of 9th Annual Conference of the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy
Giulia Berlusconi (2014)Italian Mafia, In: G Bruinsma, D Weisburd (eds.), Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justicepp. 2699-2706 Springer

The Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice is an international, comprehensive reference tool for the field of Criminology and Criminal Justice that is both cutting edge as well as of very high scientific quality and prestige. This 10-volume work provides a complete and systematic coverage of the field that is unprecedented. The Encyclopedia "defines the field" through its choice of organization and entries. It identifies and brings emerging ideas and trends to the forefront. The Encyclopedia covers Criminology and Criminal Justice in ten broad areas, with leading researchers writing substantive contributions within their area of expertise:

The infiltration of organised crime in the legitimate economy has emerged as a transnational phenomenon. This book constitutes an unprecedented study of the involvement of criminal groups in the legitimate economy and their infiltration in legal businesses, and is the first to bridge the research gap between money laundering and organised crime. It analyses the main drivers of this process, explaining why, how and where infiltration happens. Building on empirical evidence from the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, the UK, Ireland, Italy, France and Finland, Organised Crime in European Businesses is divided into four parts. Part I explores the infiltration of legitimate businesses to conceal and facilitate illicit trafficking. Part II examines the infiltration of legitimate businesses to develop fraud schemes. Part III focuses on the infiltration of legitimate businesses to control the territory and influence policy makers. Part IV concludes by considering the research and policy implications in light of these findings. Bringing together leading experts and detailed case studies, this book considers the infiltration of organised crime in legitimate business around Europe. It is an ideal resource for students and academics in the fields of criminology, economics and sociology, as well as private sector practitioners, public officials and policy makers.

M Riccardi, Giulia Berlusconi (2017)Measuring organised crime infiltration in legal businesses, In: EU Savona, M Riccardi, Giulia Berlusconi (eds.), Organised Crime in European Businessespp. 16-32 Routledge

This chapter discusses the methodological challenges in defining, operationalising and measuring organised crime infiltration in legal businesses. It first reviews existing definitions and measures of organised crime; it then focuses on infiltration, outlining the differences with respect to the concepts of organised crime investments and money laundering. It discusses the strengths and the weaknesses of existing measures and methodological approaches (e.g. analysis of statistics on confiscated assets, of personal holdings, of case studies), suggesting further directions to improve the collection of data and research in this field.

A Hojan, G Taberski, P Taberski, Giulia Berlusconi, M Dugato (2015)“Data analysis findings.” Project IPATCH, Deliverable 3.2. Report to the European Commission
EU Savona, Giulia Berlusconi (2011)Maritime Piracy in Somalia: Developing New Situational Prevention Techniques, In: John T. Picarelli (eds.), INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZED CRIME: THE AFRICAN EXPERIENCE. Selected papers and contributions from the International Conference on “International Organized Crime: The African Experience” Courmayeur Mont Blanc, Italy 10-12 December 2010pp. 45-57 ISPAC