Detecting, Investigating, and Prosecuting Traffickers: Projects

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Identifying Challenges to Improve the Investigation and Prosecution of State and Local Human Trafficking Cases (Northeastern University)

This study focused on the identification, investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases at the state and local level. The researcher's primary goal was to learn more about the obstacles that hinder law enforcement efforts to locate victims of trafficking and prosecute their traffickers. Researchers examined trafficking cases in a diverse set of 12 U.S. counties and interviewed officials in three counties that reported no trafficking cases. The findings cannot be assumed to apply to the entire country.

Most trafficking cases begin with a tip from someone but rarely from trafficked people themselves. Researchers found that 69 percent of the cases went forward to prosecution, but most were not charged as trafficking cases per se. They were prosecuted under older laws, such as those against promoting prostitution.

State prosecutors cited various reasons for using existing laws:

  • A lack of precedent at the state level.
  • Many jurisdictions do not have specialized units for prosecution, and have not received training for these cases.
  • Many localities do not have the funds to travel to collect evidence. This hampers investigations that cross county and state lines, a common feature of trafficking cases.
  • Local prosecutors tend to regard such cases as falling under federal jurisdiction.

Asian Transnational Organized Crime and Its Impact on the United States (Rutgers University)

This work was NIJ 's first substantial effort to address Asian transnational crime (from multiple countries) and its U.S. impacts. Interviews with U.S. and Asian law enforcement and other criminal justice officials revealed that transnational organized crime networks operating in the region are highly specialized. It documents how several important issues of transnational crime overlap: trafficking in women and children, human smuggling, and drug production and trafficking, and these are the priority issues in the Asian region which directly impact the U.S. The report offers specific strategies for pursuing a research agenda on U.S. impacts of Asian transnational crime.

Law Enforcement Response to Human Trafficking and Its Implications for Victims: Current Practices and Lessons Learned (Caliber Associates)

Little is known about how law enforcement agencies are organizing their response to human trafficking, or the capabilities of law enforcement to respond to the needs of trafficking victims. This exploratory project was designed to fill this gap by providing a clear perspective on the current state of law enforcement's understanding of human trafficking. This project identified:

  1. Current law enforcement responses to human trafficking.
  2. The implications of such responses for victims.
  3. Best practices and lessons learned by law enforcement and the partners they collaborate with on trafficking cases (e.g., victim service providers, attorneys, etc.).

Understanding and Improving Law Enforcement Responses to Human Trafficking (Northeastern University)

A national sample of law enforcement agencies (n= ~3,000) will be surveyed to determine local definitions of trafficking, the number and type of investigations conducted, the extent of reporting and coordination with other agencies, and good practices for combating human trafficking. Second, selected jurisdictions with existing trafficking programs, and multi-agency partners (e.g., law enforcement, U.S. Attorneys, District Attorneys, service providers) will be surveyed to help identify the benefits and challenges of reporting, investigating, and prosecuting trafficking using multi-agency models. Third, intensive case studies will also be conducted in Boston, Massachusetts; St. Louis, Missouri; and Phoenix, Arizona to provide qualitative data about local efforts to investigate cases and provide services to trafficking victims.

Trafficking in Persons in the U.S. (Croft Institute for International Studies)

This research examined human trafficking case studies in Southwest Florida, Chicago, and Washington, DC. The project evaluated:

  1. Ways to improve identification, investigation, prosecution, and conviction of traffickers.
  2. Good and bad examples of how victims have been approached and processed and ultimately had their situations resolved.
  3. How to determine victims' needs and ways to meet them.
  4. How to find ways to bring together and improve the interaction of entities involved in these cases.

Prosecuting Human Trafficking Cases: Lessons Learned (Caliber Associates/American Prosecutors Research Institute)

In this project, researchers will examine the effect of existing legislation on the successful prosecution of human trafficking cases. Surveys of Federal and State attorneys, interviews with key stakeholders, and an analysis of legislation and legal cases inside and outside the U.S. will be used to identify key issues in prosecution and lessons learned.

Date Modified: June 18, 2012