Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2009, $501,352)
The proposed project utilizes a multi-method approach to understand the challenges local, county and state officials face investigating and prosecuting human trafficking cases. The investigators expect that the findings will help identify and overcome barriers to local prosecution of human trafficking and promote local practices that facilitate successful investigation and prosecution.
The investigators will conduct a series of case reviews and in-depth qualitative interviews of the experiences of police, prosecutors, judges, other court officials and victim service providers in investigating and prosecuting cases of human trafficking in a targeted sample of twelve counties across the United States. The counties selected will include those with and without state-level human trafficking legislation as well as those with and without federal or state human trafficking task forces. Using county, state and Federal prosecution records and local police investigative files in each county, the investigators will identify all cases of human trafficking investigated by local law enforcement agencies between 2000 and 2008 according to five types of cases: investigated and prosecuted locally as human trafficking, investigated as human trafficking but prosecuted locally as a different crime, investigated locally as trafficking but prosecuted federally, investigated locally as trafficking but never prosecuted, and investigated initially as a different crime but eventually prosecuted locally as trafficking. The cases will be coded for key factors related to identification, classification, investigation, arrests, charging decisions, victim participation and case outcomes.
In addition to examining human trafficking cases, the investigators will review a sample of case records for other types of crimes that might include indicators of human trafficking but were not investigated or charged as such. The investigators will then sample two cases from each of the five types for further in-depth interviews with primary stakeholders to identify their roles and responsibilities and understand the factors that helped promote or hinder the investigation and prosecution of these cases. The investigators have working relationships with several trafficking task forces and these relationships will help in gaining access to the stakeholders for the in-depth studies.
Interviews and cases reviews will be coded for analysis within case, cross cases within counties, and cross cases across counties.