Investigating Human Trafficking

Human trafficking cases can be complex and, as a rule, cannot be handled by one agency alone. Ask around your agency and your neighboring agencies whether anyone has experience with human trafficking. Trafficking is a small niche, and there may be another investigator nearby who has an interest in trafficking of which you are unaware.

At the same time, phone the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 888-3737-888. The hotline is staffed 24/7 by the Polaris Project in Washington, D.C., and they can tell you if there are federally funded task forces or other resources close by. These task forces are comprised of local and federal law enforcement and victim services providers who are experienced with human trafficking. Also, the hotline can provide contact information for many agencies that are not affiliated with a task force, but which will still be familiar with human trafficking and the proper response protocols.

You can also phone the FBI or ICE-HSI (Immigration and Customs Enforcement — Homeland Security Investigations) office that serves your jurisdiction if your case involves a foreign-national victim or suspect.

The United States Attorney’s Office has a lot of experience prosecuting trafficking cases, and within any federally funded task force there should be an Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) knowledgeable about human trafficking. The AUSA can be helpful in assisting your state or local prosecutor, both in interpreting human trafficking statues and with prosecution strategy.

Another resource in this area is the Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit (HTPU), which is part of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. The HTPU also has its own investigator who is very knowledgeable on human trafficking, from the perspectives of both investigating the crime and working with service providers to deliver a comprehensive response.

Yes, human trafficking is complex, and investigating cases may mean we need to reach out for assistance. But the resources are out there — you may just have to dig a little to find them. One upside to all of this is that through this experience, you will become the subject matter expert in your area! And, of course, a victim of slavery will have been freed and, hopefully, the trafficker will be sent to prison.

Learn more at John Vanek’s article: Investigating human trafficking: Teams, task forces, and tips from experts.


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