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Ending Modern-Day Slavery: Using Research to Inform U.S. Anti-Human Trafficking Efforts

NCJ Number
NIJ Journal Issue: 271 Dated: February 2013 Pages: 26-32
Date Published
February 2013
7 pages
This article presents the results of a study examining the challenges facing the U.S. criminal justice system in its efforts to combat human trafficking.
Findings from the study on the challenges facing the U.S. criminal justice system in its efforts to combat human trafficking include the following: identifying victims of human trafficking can be extremely difficult because perpetrators hide and move their victims; the cultural and organizational characteristics of police agencies, including a lack of proactive strategies, can hinder efforts to identify victims; victims are reluctant to cooperate with investigators because they fear retaliation from traffickers or they distrust law enforcement; law enforcement officers often have negative stereotypes about victims of human trafficking, especially those involved in prostitution and drug use; and many human trafficking cases are often cross-jurisdictional. This study examined the challenges facing law enforcement in human trafficking investigations to determine whether incidents of human trafficking have been overstated or whether law enforcement agencies and officials have not been able to effectively confront the problem. Data for the study were obtained from a review of 140 closed trafficking case files, and interviews with 166 practitioners from Federal, State, and local law enforcement, victim service providers, Federal and State prosecutors, and other stakeholders across 12 sites. The data was analyzed to determine which characteristics of human trafficking cases attracted local law enforcement's attention and how attitudes predicted adjudicatory outcomes. The review of the cases indicates that while 69 percent of the cases prosecuted resulted in offenders being held accountable, they were often prosecuted for a crime other than human trafficking, posing a problem for crime reporting. Additional problems related to the challenges of investigating and prosecuting human trafficking cases are discussed. Notes

Date Published: February 1, 2013