Creating a Future-Proof Port: The FORT-PORT Innovative Approach to Fighting Crime

News - 31 March 2023 - Communication EWI

Organized crime is one of the bigger societal challenges of today, especially in ports such as Rotterdam. In order to develop scientifically tried and tested methods to tackle this multi-faceted problem, NWO has funded a new project: FORT-PORT. Led by the Law faculty of the Erasmus University Rotterdam, the project will receive critical support from data scientist Huijuan Wang (Department of Intelligent Systems) and mathematician Robbert Fokkink (Delft Institute of Applied Mathematics) at EEMCS. The interdisciplinary and multi-university project will be a first of its kind, and an excellent example of how emerging Digital Technologies can help protect valuable aspects of our society.

Ports are critical components of our globalised world, providing transportation for goods and materials that are essential to everyday life. However, they are also vulnerable to organized crime. These criminal activities can include smuggling, human trafficking, and other illegal operations that threaten the safety and security of the port and its surrounding communities.

The FORT-PORT project is an innovative initiative that aims to tackle this problem head-on. The project brings together experts from a range of disciplines, including criminology, mathematics, and computer science. One of the core goals is to create a predictive model of where and when crime is likely to occur in the area, as well as a useable interface for that model.

In many ways, FORT-PORT is a first of its kind. Computer scientists and mathematicians will join hands with criminal experts and sociologists – to eventually help create a tool that will tackle organized crime.

Huijuan Wang

One of the core aspects of FORT-PORT is its focus on network modelling, an effort from a game theory point of view by Robbert Fokkink and a multi-layered network data perspective by Huijuan Wang. By combining this quantitative approach with the more qualitative research from the criminology department and expertise from public and private partners in and around Port Rotterdam, the project hopes to gain a deeper understanding of how criminal organizations operate. This effort will include a serious gaming platform, designed by Utrecht University, that will allow law enforcement officers to simulate different scenarios and test out different interventions. By using these simulations, the team hopes to identify the most effective strategies for preventing crime in the port.

I have good hopes of creating a usable, predictive model of where and when crime will occur inside and outside of the Rotterdam harbour area. This model could be a decision support system for law enforcement agencies, helping them to prevent crime and keep the port of Rotterdam safe and secure.

Robbert Fokkink

One of the end goals, a predictive model of crime patterns, could help identify high-risk areas and enable law enforcement to take preventative measures before any criminal activity occurs. Such a model could potentially also be adapted for different ports in Western Europe. FORT-PORT will start in September 2023 and will run for 4.5 years. The allocated budget is 3 million euros.