Ben Brewster

Hi! I'm a researcher doing work around Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery. Sometimes i do work on other crime and security issues too.



Analysing the web and social media for weak indicators of organised crime.

Organised crime is becoming increasingly diverse in its activities and methods as groups across Europe continue to collaborate and increasingly work internationally. Facilitated by freedom of movement throughout the EU, a diversification in the types and combinations of illicit activity, and a growing dependency on the use of the internet to coordinate activities, law enforcement requires new tools to provide early warning of the emergence of serious and organised crime threats.

The ePOOLICE solution was to develop a software system for the scanning and analysis of information from open-source social media, the wider web, public and government databases and closed data and intelligence sources, in the process automatically analysing their reliability and relevance. The project was able to identify stakeholder needs in relation to the processes and tools required for understanding emerging organised crime threats. This led to the development of an automated information retrieval and analysis system to aid in the early detection of threats. The system utilised dynamic scenarios based on end user needs and requirements to validate real-world performance (drugs and human trafficking), and to evaluate the trends and factors driving “future crime” in order to identify potential “weak signals” of emerging organised crime trends.

In ePOOLICE I led the development of the model used extract information related to Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery. By conducting a thorough literature and information search online, making use of existing and well-established crime classification mechanisms and indicators in addition to the insights derived from holding focus groups and workshops with practitioners, including EUROPOL and regional law enforcement, I was able to assist technical minded colleagues in the development of the automated information retrieval tools, ensuring that the information collected, filtered and corroborated was representative of that with legitimate indicators of trafficking and exploitation.