A major focus of the ‘security’ world is the control of terrorists and organised crime groups and networks. In this practice domain, disruption is used very loosely to characterise interventions.
This page presents a framework which aims to tighten up, and also differentiate, the concept in order to improve thinking, communication and action in these challenging fields. The framework covers the range of operational, environmental, and strategic/ existential disruptions.
As with crime in general, there is a need to bring interventions against organised crime and terrorism into sharper focus. This process can be aided by asking these key questions:
- How can we generate innovative new interventions in taking forward the arms race with adaptable, persistent and often well-resourced criminals?
- How do the interventions work?
- How do we know that they have been properly implemented?
- How do we know that the evaluations are a fair test?
- How do we diagnose failures so we can learn from them, and share and replicate success stories adjusted to new problems and contexts?
Finding answers to these questions necessitates articulating some key principles, based on evidence and tested theory, in a clear way which supports intervention, evaluation and intelligent replication. But some conceptual foundations are needed too, including clearly-defined terms.
The vernacular term ‘disruption’ is defined (Merriam-Webster) as ‘a break or interruption in the normal course or continuation of some activity, process etc.’ This is hard to improve on except to note that for present usage there is normally some thwarting of purpose or utility. But we can break the concept down into several elements: operational, environmental, and strategic-existential. (Note that the concept of disruption used in a more general sense is also relevant to technological and social change, where, say, some innovation such as the Worldwide Web or cryptocurrency suddenly and radically changes the viability of business models or the balance between offenders versus the security side. This is more relevant to evolutionary approaches including arms races, and crime and security futures.)
The intervention principles of disruption that follow are described in terms of action targeted on organised crime groups and networks (OCGs), but apply equally to terrorists:
- Disrupting planning by OCGs
- Disrupting execution of OCGs’ operations (see the military’s OODA Loop – Observe, Orient, Decide, Act)
- Imposing drag on OCGs obtaining, securing, storing, exploiting reward from their activities relative to the effort
- Disrupting communications (electronic, or face-to-face) within OCGs
- Disrupting OCG’s own security measures against law enforcement, rival OCGs or insider threats
- Disrupting wider networks, criminal services and markets within which OCGs operate
- Disrupting the existing corruption of regulators and other public institutions, and limiting OCGs’ future attempts to corrupt them
- Disrupting OCG’s business models – remove the social/economic niche that they exploit, boosting legitimate business opportunities (ecological concepts including niche are discussed here and at various places under evolution, crime and security)
- Creating distrust within OCGs, and across criminal networks
- Dismantling OCGs – breaking up the organisation
- Diminishing OCGs (number/quality of members leaving is greater than numbers being recruited)
- Detaching OCGs from supportive subcultures
- Reducing demand for OCG services
If you have any suggestions for additional disruptions, please contact.
The disruption principles complement the Ds Framework (Deter, Detect, Detain, Deny, Demotivate etc). These characterise ways of influencing individual offenders – whether or not they are members of organised groups and networks – and indeed the corporate-level offender.
Disruption is further discussed in the presentation below (versions with/without audio) which also covers disruption to the security side.