Bulletin Reports

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

A study on the challenges facing the criminal justice system’s efforts to combat human trafficking indicated that identifying victims can be difficult because perpetrators hide and move them; the cultural and organizational characteristics of law enforcement agencies, including a lack of proactive strategies, can hinder efforts; victims are reluctant to cooperate with investigators due to fear of retaliation from traffickers or distrust of law enforcement officers; investigators sometimes stereotype the victims, particularly those involved in prostitution and drug use; and many cases often are cross-jurisdictional.

This study examined the challenges of human trafficking investigations to determine whether incidents have been overstated or whether law enforcement agencies and officials have not effectively been able to confront the problem. Data for the study were obtained from a review of 140 closed trafficking case files and interviews with 166 federal, state, and local law enforcement officers; victim service providers; federal and state prosecutors; and other stakeholders across 12 sites. The data were 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 indicated that while 69 percent of those prosecuted resulted in offenders being held accountable, they often were 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.

For additional information see the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS), https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/Publications/abstract.aspx?ID=262781, NCJ 240701.