Policing through Social Network Analysis


Illustration of individuals in networksSocial Network Analysis (SNA) is a data-driven, analytical tool used to examine relationships between individuals and patterns in social networks. According to the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) office of the Department of Justice, law enforcement agencies can utilize SNA to predict and prevent criminal activities.

COPS released this August 2018 report on the emergence of SNA as a policing strategy titled ‘Policing the Connected World: Using Social Network Analysis in Police-Community Partnerships’. It describes the theoretical framework for SNA, provides examples of real-world use, and explains the benefits of using SNA in policing.  The report also details various pitfalls of SNA, which include the possibility that poor or misused data might result in unfair targeting of individuals or groups.   High-quality data collection and analysis is crucial to implementation of SNA, in addition to the use of trained agents to implement SNA protocols in law enforcement operations.

This report is part of a project between the Department of Justice and Yale University as part of a statewide violence prevention initiative in New Haven, Connecticut.  The final goals of this project are to develop training and software that will allow law enforcement agencies to implement SNA, and to administer SNA training programs to law enforcement agencies.


More information can be found in the HSDL Featured Topics on Gangs and Domestic Terrorism.

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