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Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, repressing thousands of people within the United States and millions throughout the world every year.

According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, human trafficking includes 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 subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery. It includes sex trafficking, in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the victim is under 18 years of age.


Because of the nature of the crime, human trafficking is difficult to quantify. Estimates on the number of victims and offenders vary widely. It is important to remember that human trafficking has many hidden victims, and there is still much that is unknown about the crime.

To begin to fill this gap, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) funded the development of a Web-based Human Trafficking Reporting System to collect incident and suspect data from the Office of Justice Programs’ (OJP) Anti-Human Trafficking Task Forces.

The resulting report, Characteristics of Suspected Human Trafficking Incidents, 2008–2010, includes data provided by the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s (BJA) law enforcement grantees who serve on the task forces and focuses on open criminal investigations. According to these data, 82 percent of reported human trafficking incidents in the United States between January 2008 and June 2010 involved allegations of sex trafficking; labor trafficking accounted for 11 percent of incidents; and other or unknown forms of human trafficking made up the remaining 7 percent.

The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) collects data on foreign national pre-certified potential victims of trafficking served by the task forces. These services to victims are not dependent on an open law enforcement investigation; therefore, data vary. From January 2003 through June 2010, OVC grantees provided services to 3,221 potential victims. Since 2005, when OVC began tracking grantee performance information, there has been a steady increase in services to labor trafficking victims, while services to sex trafficking victims have grown at a much slower rate.

What OJP Is Doing

The Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and OVC support Anti-Human Trafficking Task Forces, which address trafficking of both foreign nationals and U.S. citizens. These task forces are composed of state and local law enforcement, investigators, victim service providers, and other key stakeholders. The task force members work in partnership to identify, investigate, and prosecute human trafficking cases and provide comprehensive victim services to identified victims. To support the 42 task forces throughout the country, OVC and BJA are sponsoring regional training forums, and in early 2011, they released an Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force Strategy and Operations e-Guide. The guide provides direction on developing new task forces, ideas for strengthening existing task forces, and other valuable tools. Other OVC efforts include administering funding for services for foreign national victims of human trafficking, organizing a National Conference on Human Trafficking, and hosting a focus group on human trafficking of American Indian and Alaska Native women and children.

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) published the bulletin Effects of Federal Legislation on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children, which describes the results of an OJJDP study that examined the impact of the Victims of Trafficking Protection Act of 2000 on the federal prosecution of commercial sexual exploitation of children cases. OJJDP efforts on behalf of young trafficking victims include support for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces, community awareness projects, and research projects to study the prevalence of commercial sexual exploitation of children.

In addition to the Web-based Human Trafficking Reporting System, OJP funds research through its National Institute of Justice (NIJ) that focuses on identifying the nature and extent of human trafficking; detecting, investigating, prosecuting traffickers; and servicing trafficking victims.

December 2011
Fighting human trafficking and serving trafficking victims are among the most difficult challenges facing law enforcement officers and victim service providers today.
–Laurie O. Robinson, Assistant
     Attorney General
  Office of Justice Programs
  National Conference on Human
     Trafficking, May 2010
Fast Facts
  • In 2009, 49,105 human trafficking victims worldwide were identified, a 59 percent increase over the previous reporting year.
  • In 2010, an estimated 12.3 million adults and children were in forced labor, bonded labor, and forced prostitution around the world; 56 percent of these victims were women and girls.
  • In 2009, there were 4,166 successful trafficking prosecutions, a 40 percent increase over 2008.
  • OJP-funded Anti-Human Trafficking Task Forces have identified more than 3,300 potential victims nationwide.
  • These task forces have trained more than 85,000 law enforcement officers and others in identifying the signs of human trafficking and its victims.
  • As many as 300,000 children are at risk for sexual exploitation each year in the United States.

Sources: Trafficking in Persons Report 2010; Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force Initiative; Effects of Federal Legislation on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children

Contact Us
Office of Justice Programs
810 Seventh Street, NW
Washington, DC 20531
Phone: 202–307–0703
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This file is provided for reference purposes only. It was current when produced, but is no longer maintained and may now be outdated. Please send an email for questions or for further information.