I am a PhD student in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, San Diego. Broadly speaking, I study the links between organized crime and politics. For example, my dissertation explores oil theft by criminal organizations in Mexico, and argues that these organizations have used the illicit profit from this market to influence elections, perpetrate violence, and corrupt institutions. Through this line of work, I hope to contribute more broadly to our understanding of how powerful criminal groups influence democratic processes and affect the quality of government institutions around the world.

Prior to my PhD, I worked on drug policy at ONDCP, with refugees and immigrants at USCRI, and with unaccompanied immigrant minors in detention centers at the Young Center.

I have a M.A. in International Security from the Schar School of Policy and Government and Bachelor Degrees in Political Science and Spanish from Southwestern University.

Find my CV here.


Dissertation Working Papers

Data Project

Mapping Criminal Organizations


Empirical studies of organized crime and criminal violence have been limited by a dearth of high-quality data on key attributes of violent criminal organizations including their structure, where they operate, what activities they engage in, and how they relate to one another. This project aims to fill this gap for Mexico and develop techniques that can be replicated in other countries.

We are combining methods and sources, from hand-coding data to scraping and processing archives to interviewing knowledgeable local actors. A public online platform will make updated data, procedures, and analyses transparent and available to all. Users will be able to download panel datasets on the activities and locations of criminal groups and their factions, disaggregated by source; visualize the evolution of their structure and relationships with other criminal groups through time; and read analyses comparing and validating our data with existing sources and methods.

This project is supported by the Center for U.S.–Mexican Studies at UCSD’s School of Global Policy and Strategy, the Empirical Studies of Conflict Project, and the Mamdouha S. Bobst Center for Peace and Justice at Princeton University.


Principal investigators and collaborators (alphabetical order):


Discussion Section Leader Grader

Get In Touch

Feel free to contact me with any questions or comments at m2alcoce@ucsd.edu.