In the past few years Dark-Net markets grew tremendously in popularity. For many illicit drug buyers around the world, the dark-net started looking like a great alternative. Most drugs are still sold on the streets, despite the dark-net stealing a lot of customers. But what happens during dark-net market take-downs? Now that the dark-net is going through a rough time, a spike in street trading has been observed.
The Illicit Trade Disruption
It could be argued that new websites created to replace former dark-net counterparts are quick to take their spot. User migration is not uncommon occurrence on the dark web. Vendors and buyers can be seen migration to new dark-net market all the time.
In May of 2020 Europol published a report on dark-web marketplaces. The report noted how even during the pandemic, markets thrived. Even as most supply chains seemed paralyzed during the crisis, the dark-net remained untouched.
Dark web observers note that there is a strong connection between the dark-net and the streets. Trading activities within both circumstances can reflect a lot. As it turns out, the dark-net seems to have disrupted the illicit drug trade. Not only did dark-net markets hijack a lot of customers from the streets, they brought new ones. It is said that with the dark-net, a large rise in both vendors and customers was recorded. For many, the streets have always been a fallback plan.
The Link Between the Streets and the Dark-Net
The London School of Economics (LSE) shared a business review blog regarding illicit drug trade. This report finds a link between dark-net seizures and increased street activity. Whenever a market seizure takes place, it is followed by a significant shift of users from online to the streeets. Needless to say, a reversal happens. In almost no time, drug traders return online as new dark-web markets rise to replace older ones.
It is not unusual for drug dealing criminal activity to get hampered by law enforcement operations. Any blow to the distribution process, transportation or production will hamper the line. It is a relatively lengthy process to warrant a return to the street trading alternative.
It is important to note that the writer did not note any impact of the dark web-street trading movement in a country. This includes theft, violence, murder and prostitution. This observation is made while knowing most of these crimes come as a result of drug dealing.
Law Enforcement Challenges
There are many ways to observe how the dark-net interacts with the streets. Arguably the best way is through the use of retail market theory. A paper published in 2011 sough to demonstrate its writers linking the illegal drug networks to legitimate labor markets. Traditional employment markets have a few challenges for as far as most are concerned. People have to go through the process of looking for a job. Scanning through thousands of job listings and reviews looking for a job. After that a lengthy application process trying to prove they are suitable.
Once successfully employed, the new entrant will do anything to remain relevant. Adapting to the rapidly changing labor market, trying to stay competitive, employees will do anything to seek approval. This is typical behavior and is done to protect their spot. The same thing goes for the vendors and sellers within the illicit drug industry. When a dark web drug dealer matches with a seller, they will build a lasting relationship that would survive police operations.
While it might look like dark-net shutdowns disrupt such relationships, it is simply not the case. The only relationship taken down during such scenarios is with the market. While many vendors go back on the streets after such events, many return online once the coast is clear.
These findings provide a lot of information. One thing regarding law enforcement can be certainly made out from this information. The challenge in crushing the dark-web drug trade once and for all is there. The shutdown of online platforms has only been a short term goals for law enforcement agencies.
Even as criminal continue to adapt their methods, law enforcement is quick to adapt. Although the dream of killing dark-web trade once and for all is still there, law enforcement agencies got a new tactic. Dark-net markets are now seen as a valuable resource containing tons of information related to illicit trades. Access to such data will allow the government to take down thousands of crime rings. The dark-net is now a valuable resource for government agencies.