Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $649,332)
Problem statement: Human trafficking is a significant issue, though identifying survivors remains challenging for frontline professionals. Trafficking survivors often interact with law enforcement—as victims or suspects of criminal behavior related to their trafficking victimization. Multiple historically marginalized groups are at increased risk for both trafficking victimization and law enforcement interaction. Equipping frontline officers with the tools needed to identify survivors can improve the response by increasing the likelihood they will be routed to appropriate services. Historically, the use of screening tools to identify trafficking has been scarce and most are not validated. Screening tool validation can also support prevalence estimates, thereby increasing understanding of how trafficking survivors interact with the justice system.
Goals: The Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center proposes a multisite evaluation of the rapid Human Trafficking Screening Tool (HTST) for use by law enforcement officers and victim advocates to identify potential labor and sex trafficking victims for subsequent assessment and services. The study has two overarching goals: (1) evaluate the practical effectiveness of the HTST that Urban previously developed and validated, when implemented with adults in at least three, diverse law enforcement settings; and (2) estimate the prevalence of labor and sex trafficking for each site among the groups to whom the HTST is administered to enhance understanding of the extent of trafficking victimization among populations interacting with law enforcement.
Strategy: The 36-month, mixed-methods study will be conducted in collaboration with NIJ, law enforcement site partners, and the project’s Advisory Board. Upon finalizing HTST revisions and sites, Urban will computerize the HTST and jointly identify victim-centered and trauma-informed HTST implementation procedures. Urban will assess HTST’s implementation fidelity, progress, and feasibility. Multiple reliability and validity tests, using a five-pronged validation data sourcing approach, will be used to evaluate HTST’s effectiveness. Validation data will support site-specific prevalence estimates. The research will culminate in several deliverables.
Partnerships: Five Enhanced Collaborative Model Human Trafficking Task Forces—Palm Beach County, Florida; Orange County, California; Suffolk County, New York; the Western District of New York; and the state of New Mexico—have expressed interest in study participation. We have also assembled an Advisory Board of human trafficking experts from research, legal, and service provider backgrounds.
Deliverables: We will prepare a final research report, archivable data, a practitioner brief on HTST implementation, and a scholarly article on the validation, as well as conduct a webinar. Advisory Board members and IACP will support broad dissemination.