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The Front Line: Challenges for Law Enforcement in the Fight Against Human Trafficking

NCJ Number
Police Chief Volume: 81 Dated: July 2014 Pages: 44-46
Date Published
July 2014
3 pages
This article reviews research that identifies major barriers to the identification of human trafficking victims, explains the disparity between what is known about the prevalence of human trafficking and current rates of the identification of victims, and suggests ways to address common challenges.
Human trafficking is hidden from the public, and its victims are reluctant to expose themselves to the uncertainties that follow reporting their abuse to the police. Consequently, there is a need for a proactive law enforcement approach. Detectives assigned to units responsible for the identification and investigation of human trafficking usually receive training in victim identification; however, patrol officers and other first responders who may unknowingly have contact with trafficking victims do not receive training on victim identification and appropriate responses. Such training should include instruction in how to properly interview victims of human trafficking, who may not understand or speak English and often have developed a mistrust of law enforcement officers. One contribution to addressing these challenges of victim identification is improved efforts in the ability of researchers to identify the prevalence of human trafficking in particular jurisdictions. The U.S. Justice Department's National Institute of Justice is currently supporting these research efforts and is leveraging the successful methods and the instrument used in a San Diego study to determine the statewide prevalence of labor trafficking among migrant farm workers in North Carolina, with final results expected in 2016. In addition, research based on input from law enforcement, prosecutors, and victim service providers suggests a number of strategies to combat human trafficking. In summary, the priorities outlined in this article are to prioritize human trafficking identification and educate the public about the nature of human trafficking and where it is likely to occur; use proactive identification and investigation strategies; dedicate institutional resources to anti-trafficking efforts; and expand training to front-line officers.
Date Published: July 1, 2014