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It’s a man’s world but it would be nothing without a woman : the involvement of women in Belgian synthetic drugs trafficking

  • De Seranno, Sophia
  • Colman, Charlotte
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2024
Ghent University Institutional Archive
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Some researchers argue that the crime gender gap is closing given an increasing number of women involved in organized crime. As a result of this ongoing debate, there has been a growing interest in female drug traffickers in recent years. Generally, most researchers suggest that drug markets are male-dominated, with women being viewed as passive and supportive to males. However, previous research has not adequately addressed women's involvement in international drug trafficking, specifically within the Belgian synthetic drugs market. Highly structured and international organized crime groups operate within the Belgian synthetic drugs market. Our objective is to comprehensively examine the involvement of women within these groups using social network analysis. We shed light on the dynamics of drug trafficking groups in Belgium and unveil crucial intervention points for law enforcement. Two judicial files focused on high-level synthetic drugs production and/or supply between 2015 and 2020 in the Belgian border region with the Netherlands were selected and used as two SNA case studies. The results reveal the following findings: (1) women are active in the Belgian synthetic drugs market, although they constitute a minority compared to men; (2) women tend to prefer criminal collaboration with people they already know and trust for reasons other than criminal intentions (e.g. family members), which may facilitate greater trust at organized crime group level, reduce violence, and minimize risks; (3) women establish connections with both men and women within the network; and (4) the removal of high-ranked members has shown to have little impact on group structure. This small-scale study suggests that the Belgian synthetic drugs market remains a man's world, however, women may contribute to the risk reduction, as well as the survival and longevity of criminal organizations.

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