Data Projects

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 organized criminal groups, including their origins, structure, where they operate, and their alliances and rivalries with one another. This project aims to fill this gap for Mexico and develop methods that can be replicated in other countries.

This project combines methods and sources, from hand-coding data to scraping and processing entire archives with machine learning to interviewing knowledgeable local actors to create a series of systematic datasets about Mexican criminal groups. Some of the datasets include a full list of criminal groups and their origins/affiliations, their presence at the municipality level from 2000-2018, their presence and strength of presence at the state level from 2007-2015, and their known alliances and rivalries through time, among others.

An online platform will make the data and its codebooks, methodology, and procedures, transparent and publicly available to all.

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 (alphabetical order):

Advisers and collaborators (alphabetical order):

Chicago Elections Project (as collaborator)


Chicago is the most-studied city in the United States and the enduring narratives of Chicago machine politics shape the way we understand urban politics all around the country. The Chicago Public Library holds approximately 95,000 microfiche cards with primary and general elections data for the 20th century and 19th centuries. These results include data as fine as the individual precinct, and the CPL collections include ward and precinct boundary maps, as well as the tabulated results. Together, this archive is a treasure for Chicago political historians. These materials have regularly been used by researchers and the public. However, analog microfilm technology has been difficult to use for wide ranging inquiries.

The Chicago Elections Project is a digital history collaboration working to expand access and provide interpretation on the electoral and political history of the city. Participants are planning, digitizing and visualizing electoral results, and capturing narratives from participants. We will simultaneously document the individuals who made Chicago politics and portray the limits of those individuals and the political system in Chicago.

This large-scale digitization and visualization project will allow the public, journalists, and researchers to understand the political history of the city in new ways and to tell stories about the neighborhood and city-wide electoral contests that shaped public policy in Chicago and Illinois over more than a century.