Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


International Crime and Justice

First Advisor's Name

Stephen Pires

First Advisor's Committee Title

co committee chair

Second Advisor's Name

Rob T. Guerette

Second Advisor's Committee Title

co committee chair

Third Advisor's Name

Timothy Goddard

Third Advisor's Committee Title

committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Jose Miguel Cruz

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

committee member


Transnational Organized Crime, High Value Target Strikes, Peace Accords, Vigilantism, Self-Defense Forces

Date of Defense



Governments employ several approaches to combat Transnational Organized Crime groups. These groups include drug trafficking organizations and armed-insurgent groups. Tactics such as High-Value Target strikes, Peace Accords, and vigilantism have shown to successfully debilitate criminal networks while at the same time sparking unintended negative outcomes. For example, some of these tactics are associated with an increase in cartel-related violence, terrorist attacks, and the lethality of terrorist attacks. What remains unclear is the degree to which these approaches affect these associations and which of these tactics has the most favorable outcomes in combating Transnational Organized Crime groups. The analyses conducted in this dissertation address these gaps in the literature by separately analyzing the three approaches and ultimately comparing their outcomes. Therefore, the goal of this dissertation is to devise a framework for governments and communities to employ against Transnational Organized Crime groups that will yield positive outcomes while minimizing any unintentional consequences. This dissertation independently explores High-Value Target strikes, Peace Accords, and vigilantism. Specifically, the first study of this dissertation explores the link between High-Value Target Strikes and cartel-related homicides in Tijuana, Mexico using data from Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography. The second study analyzes the link between High-Value Target strikes and terrorism in Colombian using data from the Global Terrorism Database. This second study also analyzes the effect that Peace Accords have on cartel-related violence by employing data available through Colombia’s National Police. The third study evaluates the association between vigilantism and cartel-related violence in Guerrero, Mexico using the same dataset as study 1. The findings of this study suggest that all three assessed approaches yield positive outcomes but are accompanied by negative effects. However, the most promising results came from study 3, which indicates that the presence of a long-established communitarian police force is associated with the smallest increase in cartel-related homicides when compared to other approaches. In terms of terrorism, results from study 2 indicate that Peace Accords are more effective in reducing terrorism than High-Value Target strikes. The dissertation concludes with a comparison of the outcomes of the three approaches, along with a discussion on the implications of these findings and the limitations of the three studies, as well as suggestions for future research in this realm.





Previously Published In

Chapter 3 -

Del Rio, J. (2022). Do high value target strikes reduce cartel-related violence? An empirical assessment of crime trends in Tijuana, Mexico. Trends in Organized Crime, 1-24. The above publication is shorter version of chapter 3 in the dissertation.



Rights Statement

Rights Statement

In Copyright. URI:
This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).