The “Kriminologisches Journal” (KrimJ) is a quarterly scientific journal which is published by Beltz-Juventa. The journal features original scientific articles, discussion papers, practice and research reports on criminological theory and practice in German and English language. The thematic focus is on critical approaches to the structures and measures of social control bodies. All manuscripts undergo selective editorial and peer-review assessment prior to acceptance for publication. The peer-review process is strictly anonymous.

The “Kriminologisches Journal” is available both in print and online. Single issues and subscriptions are available at Beltz Juventa.

Issue 3/2021



Special Issue "Drugs and Digital Technologies"












Drugs and Digital Technologies

Meropi Tzanetakis & Bernd Werse

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Full papers

A qualitative analysis of the Russian cryptomarket Hydra (English)

Anastasia Meylakhs & Ramil Saidashev

Hydra is regarded as the largest Russian-language online marketplace for illicit goods with no less than four million Euro of annual revenue. In this paper, we provide a qualitative analysis of the unique organization of the Hydra cryptomarket. The theoretical framework for this study draws on information asymmetry and assumptions of signaling theory. Data collected include longitudinal parsing and non-participant observation from 2019 to 2021. Hydra is a monopolistic marketplace with no alternatives of the same scale in Russia, and exhibits considerable differences with regard to international cryptomarkets. In the analysis, we present the three themes: physical stashes, formalized rules, and the architecture of the Hydra market. Contrary to the reliance on the postal system for delivering drugs internationally, Hydra introduces a novel delivery method called stashes, which puts buyers at higher risks to get caught by law enforcement agents and make them more “active” in obtaining drugs. Buyers not only have to choose and pay for drugs; they also need to go out in the streets and personally look for their purchased stuff. While elaborated formalized rules enabled by strong sanctioning mechanisms (e.g., fines) cover every possible aspect of interaction connected to the marketplace usage, a multilayered platform architecture allows for the emergence of complex hierarchies and segregation between users. Hydra also provides automatic services related to drug selling (instant purchases, non-mediated disputes, etc.). In addition, personal communications between actors are confined by the architecture, so that visible public communications give buyers the only substantial grounds for decisionmaking. These findings raise questions considering the role of credibility signals, asymmetry of information, and formalized rules in resolving issues of product quality, stable exchange processes and communication processes.
Kund*innen einem höheren Risiko ausgesetzt sind von Justizbehörden erwischt zu werden, da sie vergleichsweise stärker in die Drogenbeschaffung einbezogen werden. Käufer*innen müssen hier die Drogen nicht nur auswählen und bezahlen, sondern sie müssen bei Hydra auch „auf die Straße gehen“ und persönlich ihre erworbenen Drogen ausfindig machen. Während ausgefeilte formalisierte Regeln basierend auf strengen Sanktionsmechanismen (z. B. Strafzahlungen) jeden nur erdenklichen Aspekt der Interaktion mit dem Marktplatz abdecken, ermöglicht eine mehrschichtige Plattform-Architektur das Entstehen von komplexen Hierarchien und Segregation von Nutzer*innen. Hydra bietet auch automatisierte Services rund um den Drogenverkauf (z. B. Direktkäufe, Konfliktbeilegung ohne Vermittlung). Zudem ist persönliche Kommunikation zwischen den Nutzer*innen durch die Architektur der Plattform beschränkt, so dass die öffentlich sichtbare Kommunikation die einzige Entscheidungsgrundlage für Kund*innen darstellt. Die Erkenntnisse werfen Fragen auf zur Rolle von Glaubwürdigkeitssignalen, Informationsasymmetrie und formalisierten Regeln für Produktqualität, stabile Tauschhandlungen und Kommunikationsprozesse.

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“You only do it with people you know”: A case study of acquisition strategies by cannabis engagers in Riga, Latvia (English)

Kristiana Bebre

This paper explores the cannabis market dynamics in a country that is not known for generating its own novel evidence-base or policies, using 27 in-depth semistructured interviews with primary cannabis engagers in Riga, Latvia. Primary cannabis engagers are defined as those with first-hand cannabis experience (e.g. use, production or distribution). Recent studies from other nations demonstrate the importance of information and communication technology (ICT) in unregulated substance markets. While darknet marketplaces or social media applications are increasingly positioned as alternatives to the offline market, this study finds that digital tools are seldom used for purchasing cannabis in Riga’s sample. Offline social networks and social supply play a vital role in the acquisition of cannabis and mediate access to commercial dealers. Both ICT and social networks are, however, used for learning about strategies for cannabis harm reduction.

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Outlining a typology of steroid suppliers located on a popular international fitness and bodybuilding Forum (English)

Luke Turnock

In recent years, there has been a rise in image and performance enhancing drug (IPED) use. With understanding access and supply of drugs important to harm reduction, this article explores IPED supply on a “surface web” fitness forum, outlining a typology of suppliers located in this space, through a digital ethnography drawing data from over 28,800 unique forum posts. Results explore the diversity of supply observed in this cultural space, examining supply along four axes, between open/closed; general/specialist; established/opportunistic; and finally between steroid “brewers” manufacturing product, and “resellers” of premade product. This typology informs understanding of how the “open” yet culturally embedded market structure of forums influences diverse norms of supply, which challenge traditional conceptions of illicit drug markets. The article also illustrates how culturally-embedded market structures in increasingly popular digital market spaces are influencing supply norms.

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Murder in live streaming and the chronicle of drug dealing: Social Media and drug trafficking in Brazil (English)

Adriana Braga

This paper explores some aspects of the smartphone as a relevant tool for different tasks within the highly complex productive chain of drug trafficking in Brazil. From an ethnographic approach to uses of mobile technology, this study observes the digital media coverage on the use of smartphones by Brazilian criminal organizations along with comments and social interactions among users. A central point in the characterization of violence in Brazil is the complex interweaving between police, society and drug trafficking as a professional practice, in which political ideology and class struggle converge. The results highlight crucial questions about contradictions in contemporary Brazilian urban society: the relevance of digital technologies in criminal practices; the lack of content control by social media; the disparity between the police’s public agenda and its real actions; the efficiency of criminal organizations in communicating freely using the wide-open operating space of the Internet; the functioning of criminal organizations through their war on the control of “territories”.

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Book Reviews

James Martin, Jack Cunliffe, Rasmus Munksgaard: Cryptomarkets: A research companion (Marx)

Martina Althoff, Bernd Dollinger, Holger Schmidt: Conflicting Narratives of Crime and Punishment (Walklate)

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Open-Access publications

Open Access publications

From issue 1/2022 onwards all English-language papers published in the Kriminologisches Journals will be made available as open access papers. The papers can be downloaded from the publisher's homepage or via content-select. Additionally the download links can be found if you click on the respective issues.

German papers can also be published via open access within the framework of the usual conditions of our publisher Beltz Juventa.

Changes on the Editorial Board

New editors-in-chief of the Kriminologisches Journal

As of Issue 2/2021the position of editor-in-chief passed over from Meropi Tzanetakis to Christine Graebsch and Jens Puschke.

Drugs and Digital Technologies

Call for Abstracts for a special issue of the KrimJ

Illicit drug markets are undergoing a significant transformation: digital technologies have a profound influence on how illicit drugs are accessed, and they have also changed information- sharing about drugs. In addition, the proliferation of information and communication technologies has changed law enforcement activity. Digitalisation also comes with rapid changes in communicative environments across time and geographic location. While online forums and other internet resources have massively increased the amount of available information and discourse on psychoactive substances for more than two decades, mobile phones, encrypted platforms, cryptocurrencies, social media and messaging applications have recently diversified the ways in which illicit drugs are distributed. This diversity includes hybrid forms of distribution, e.g. using social media applications to make physical appointments.


New Editorial Board

New Editors of the Kriminologisches Journal

As of January 1st 2021 the Editorial Board of the Kriminologisches Journal consists of Prof. Dr. Jens Puschke LL.M, Dr. Meropi Tzanetakis, Dr. Simon Egbert, Prof. Dr. Christine Graebsch, Prof. Dr. Dörte Negnal und Dr. Bernd Werse.