Dr Giulia Berlusconi

+44 (0)1483 686973
10 AD 03


University roles and responsibilities

  • Programme Director for BSc Criminology and Sociology
  • Deputy Director of Learning and Teaching

    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



    Berlusconi G. (2021) Come at the king, you best not miss: criminal network adaptation after law enforcement targeting of key players. Global Crime, published online on 9 December 2021.
    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.
    Giommoni L., Berlusconi G. and Aziani A. (2021) Interdicting International Drug Trafficking: a Network Approach for Coordinated and Targeted Interventions. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, published online on 8 February 2021.
    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.
    Giommoni L., Berlusconi G. and Melendez-Torres G.J. (2020) Characterising the structure of the largest online commercial sex network in the UK: observational study with implications for STI prevention. Culture, Health & Sexuality, published online on 7 September 2020.
    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 concentred 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 are the most effective in reducing network connectedness and average closeness centrality scores, thus limiting the transmission of STIs.
    Aziani A., Berlusconi G. and Giommoni L. (2019) A quantitative application of enterprise and social embeddedness theories to the transnational trafficking of cocaine in Europe. Deviant Behaviour, published online on 18 September 2019.
    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 of cocaine traffickers.
    modi operandi
    Berlusconi G. and Hamilton C. (2019) Counter-terrorism in Poland. In: C. Hamilton, Contagion, counter-terrorism and criminology: Justice in the shadow of terror, pp. 49-74. Palgrave, Berlin.
    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 Chapter 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.
    Hamilton C. and Berlusconi G. (2018) Contagion, counterterrorism and criminology: The case of France. Criminology and Criminal Justice 18(5): 568-584.
    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.
    Giommoni L., Aziani A. and Berlusconi G. (2017) How do illicit drugs move across countries? A network analysis of the heroin supply to Europe. Journal of Drug Issues 47(2): 217-240.
    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.
    Berlusconi G., Aziani A. and Giommoni L. (2017) The determinants of heroin flows in Europe: A latent space approach. Social Networks 51: 104-117.
    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, , 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.
    mutatis mutandis
    Dugato M., Calderoni F. and Berlusconi G. (2017) Forecasting organized crime homicides: Risk terrain modelling of Camorra violence in Naples, Italy. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, published online on 13 June 2017.
    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.
    Berlusconi G., Calderoni F., Parolini N., Piccardi C. and Verani M. (2016) Link prediction in criminal networks: A tool for criminal intelligence analysis. PLoS One 11(4): e015424.
    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.
    Calderoni F., Berlusconi G., Garofalo L., Giommoni L. and Sarno F. (2016) The Italian mafias in the world: A worldwide assessment of the mobility of criminal groups. European Journal of Criminology 13(4): 413-433.
    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.
    Savona E.U., Riccardi M. and Berlusconi G. (eds.) (2016) Organised crime in European businesses. Routledge, London.
    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 ,  and  infiltration happens.
    Berlusconi G. (2016) Organised criminals and the legal economy. In: E.U. Savona, M. Riccardi and G. Berlusconi (eds.), Organised crime in European businesses, pp. 4-15. Routledge, London.
    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.
    Riccardi M. and Berlusconi G. (2016) Measuring organised crime infiltration in legal businesses. In: E.U. Savona, M. Riccardi and G. Berlusconi (eds.), Organised crime in European businesses, pp. 16-32. Routledge, London.
    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.
    Berlusconi G. (2016) Social network analysis and crime prevention. In: B. Leclerc and E.U. Savona (eds.), Crime prevention in the 21st century, pp. 129-141. Springer, New York.
    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.
    Berlusconi G. (2013) Do all the pieces matter? Assessing the reliability of law enforcement data sources for the network analysis of wire taps. Global Crime 14(1): 61-81.
    Law enforcement agencies rely on data collected from wire taps to construct the organisational 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.
    Savona E.U. and Berlusconi G. (2011) Maritime piracy in Somalia: Developing new situational prevention techniques. In: J.T. Picarelli (ed.), International organized crime: The African experience. ISPAC, Milano.
    From the 1980s the international community has shown a growing concern about sea piracy, as a consequence of a significant rise of the recorded attacks. The security of maritime routes is indeed a matter of concern for states, as well as for trade companies whose vessels face the risk of being attacked and either robbed of the entire cargo or hijacked for a ransom. This paper analyses and explains the existing opportunities that drive pirates and discusses present and future remedies with a focus on situational prevention techniques.