Targeting the Most Harmful Co-Offenders in Denmark: A Social Network Analysis Approach

Christian Frydensberg, Barak Ariel, Matthew Bland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research Question
Is there a ‘power few’ individuals in Denmark who, through consistent co-offending, produce the highest frequency of crimes and the most harm to society amongst all co-offenders?
We analysed official statistics from the Police Crime Case Management System in Denmark on all 437,717 charges for violations of the Danish Criminal Code, the Illegal Substances Act and the Weapons Act, in which co-offender relationships were identified from 2007 to 2017, equal to 28% of the national total of all 1,554,943 such charges filed against both solo offenders and co-offenders in that time period.
We cross-referenced charging records with crime harm values taken from the Danish Crime Harm Index to measure the severity of all offence types charged. A social network analysis (SNA) algorithm was applied to the data to test for centrality and identify key co-offenders.

While 7.5% of the co-offending population accounted for 50% of crime volume, only 3.6% of the co-offenders accounted for 50% of total crime harm. The latter made up just 1.2% of the overall offender population in Denmark, but contributed 24% of overall harm. Social network analysis of how central that power few was in relation to other co-offenders suggests an even smaller cohort of co-offenders—the ‘power few of the power few’—who are disproportionality more connected to other co-offenders.
The ‘power few’ phenomenon exists in co-offender networks, with a pronounced concentration of harm caused by a small number of co-offenders. The evidence suggests that targeting co-offenders based on social network analysis can enhance the harm potentially reduced by both investigations and crime prevention strategies.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)21-36
Number of pages16
JournalCambridge Journal of Evidence-Based Policing
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 1 May 2019


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