The overarching goal of the LAS Trafficking Exemplar is to address the problem of combating trafficking and smuggling of human beings by developing methods that can aid in the discovery of hidden commonalities and connections within trafficking and smuggling networks (i.e., networks with dynamic spatio-temporal connections).
There is currently a gap in mathematical methods to explore multi-level networks that have space and time components, as well as tools to explore, interrogate, and visualize these complex systems. The analytic process for identifying trafficking and smuggling networks often involves time consuming and laborious processes for making connections between many interacting components (entities, objects, systems, communications, etc.) that are usually governed by simple rules at the individual level. Networks can be used to model the structure of interactions between the objects; however, there is often insufficient knowledge to model how one change in a network affects another.
To address the human trafficking and smuggling problem set, LAS researchers have identified a need to expand capabilities in the following areas:
- Detection of communities or other clustered structures across layers of a network sometimes with unknown relationships by incorporating ‘organizational theory’ and knowledge of social networks.
- Development of geospatial knowledge systems that can help identify transit hubs, routes, and staging countries used by smuggling organizations.
- Development of a dynamic supply chain model using a multi-level network consisting of logistical, informational, and financial components.
- Greater understanding of financing and money flows related to smuggling, especially digital currency and virtual payments.