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Identifying Challenges to Improve the Investigation and Prosecution of State and Local Human Trafficking Cases: Executive Summary

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2012
16 pages
This study addresses and offers solutions for the challenges that State and local law enforcement face in identifying, investigating, and prosecuting human trafficking cases.
The American public has become increasingly concerned about the problem of human trafficking. In response, Federal and State legislatures have passed laws to promote the identification of, and assistance to, victims and to support the investigation and prosecution of perpetrators. In 2000, the Federal government passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (TVPA). The law defined a new set of crimes related to human trafficking and enhanced penalties for offenses such as slavery, peonage, and involuntary servitude. Since its passage, 49 states have enacted legislation criminalizing human trafficking. Despite the attention and resources directed at combating this crime, reports indicate that fewer cases have been identified and prosecuted than would be expected, causing speculation that the provisions of Federal and State human trafficking laws are not being enforced and that law enforcement agencies are not working together to confront the problem. Previous research has documented the challenges that State and local law enforcement face in identifying human trafficking cases, but not which practices would improve the ability to identify, investigate, and prosecute them. This study seeks to address these gaps. Using a multi-method approach to examining the way local and State police, prosecutors, and courts investigate and prosecute human trafficking cases, the authors discuss challenges to the identification and investigation of these cases, and propose strategies for overcoming the barriers to investigation and prosecution them in the United States. Findings from the analyses of multiple data sources are presented in five sections. The characteristics of closed human trafficking cases, and the relationships between case characteristics, community, and organizational-level characteristics that may affect identification, investigation, and prosecution are examined, as well as, the challenges facing law enforcement, prosecutors, and victim service stakeholders in State and Federal courts.

Date Published: April 1, 2012