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Hidden in Plain Sight: Challenges to Identifying, Investigating, and Prosecuting Human Trafficking

NCJ Number
JRSA Forum Volume: 32 Issue: 3 Dated: September 2014 Pages: 1-6
Date Published
September 2014
6 pages
After a brief overview of the nature of "human trafficking," this paper discusses what has been done about human trafficking internationally and nationally; challenges to the U.S. criminal justice system in responding to human trafficking; the proactive investigation of human trafficking; and improving the identification of human trafficking.
"Human trafficking" is defined as "a modern form of slavery in which people are coerced, tricked, or forced into exploitive labor or sexual services." In the United States, human trafficking cases have involved migrants, both documented and undocumented; exploitation of runaway children escaping abuse; and developmentally disabled adults who are forced to labor with little pay. In the year 2000, the United Nations adopted the Protocol To Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. The United States passed the Victim of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000, which defines a new crime of human trafficking and enhanced penalties for existing offenses such as slavery, peonage, and involuntary servitude. Despite the enactment of laws and provision of resources to combat trafficking, few human trafficking cases have been identified and prosecuted. This suggests that human trafficking requires proactive investigation, since victims are hidden, albeit often in "plain sight." In the cases studied for this report, the most frequent method of identification of human trafficking was a tip, either from a community member, a victim services organization, or a hotline call. Suggestions for improving the identification of human trafficking focus on training and monitoring and the techniques of proactive investigations. 7 references and 1 figure

Date Published: September 1, 2014