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Explaining the Use of Traditional Law Enforcement Responses to Human Trafficking Concerns in Illicit Massage Businesses

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Dated: 2022
Ieke de Vries; Amy Farrell
Date Published
April 2022

Since traditional police tactics such as rapid response and reactive enforcement continue to dominate the police response against human trafficking despite knowledge about the challenges and potential harm of using these tactics, in the case of illicit massage businesses (IMBs), this study examined why police continue to rely on strategies that have received little empirical support.



In-depth interviews with police, prosecutors, and other practitioners indicate that citizen concerns about human trafficking trigger police responses such as reactive investigations, sting operations, and shutdowns of IMBs. While law enforcement officials recognize the limited effectiveness and potential harm of the current response, adapting how police respond to IMBs is challenged by perceptual and institutional barriers. With these findings, the study contributes to the research and theory on traditional policing and informs targeted and victim-centered anti-trafficking efforts. (Publisher abstract provided)