Human Trafficking Cues and Clues

Human trafficking cases, unless specifically reported, may be hard to detect.

Human trafficking is defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or other services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery. Sex trafficking includes the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion, or in which the victim is under 18 years of age.

Victims of human trafficking are unable to leave these oppressive and often abusive situations for variety of reasons. Traffickers use mental abuse, the threat of or actual physical violence, sexual abuse, drug dependency, the threat of arrest or even deportation as a means to control their victims and establish and maintain a psychological dependency.

Law enforcement officers get accustomed to handling calls like labor disputes, check-on-location calls, check-on-subject calls, domestic calls, prostitution calls and injured subject calls at face value. Yet, these are the very types of calls where indicators of human trafficking can and will be found. Here are some indicators to look for.

  • Security – Is the level of security appropriate for the type of property or dwelling? Does it appear to be intended to keep people in?
  • Businesses and Residences can serve as fronts for traffickers to exploit their victims. These could include restaurants, bars and strip clubs, nail salons, kiosks, massage parlors, truck stops, cleaning services, construction businesses, farms and even people’s homes.
  • Victims’ Behaviors -Visible physical injuries, employees who appear overly fatigued, poorly nourished, physically unkempt, or who appear unusually frightened or intimidated. Keeping victims in a state of uncertainty furthers victim dependency upon their traffickers. And, in cases of sex trafficking, regular movement or rotation of victims offers customers a sense of variety, giving them different women to choose from.
  • Third Party “Helpers”- Someone else intervening to answer questions on behalf of the victim. This is done in an effort to keep the victim from revealing too much to the authorities.

Learn more at Morris Greenberg’s article: Traffic signals: Cues and clues indicating human trafficking operations.


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