Join the Fight to End Human Trafficking

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September 21, 2017 

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) officers arrested nearly 2,000 human traffickers and identified over 400 victims across the United States. Human trafficking is the illegal trade and exploitation of people for commercial gain. Forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation are the most common forms of human trafficking and can occur in a variety of scenarios and industries.

Most states have their own laws criminalizing human trafficking, making this form of modern-day slavery a violation not only of international and federal law, but also state laws. The primary aim of HSI in its fight against human trafficking is to work with law enforcement colleagues to protect and stabilize victims, prosecute offenders and prevent additional trafficking.

Know the indicators of human trafficking

Law enforcement officials may encounter a potential victim of human trafficking while performing their regular duties – during domestic disturbance calls; when responding to incidents at massage parlors, bars and adult entertainment clubs; or even during routine traffic stops. Human traffickers exploit individuals who face extreme adversity, violence, discrimination, economic vulnerability or dependence. Consequently, victims of human trafficking can be any age, gender, race or immigration status; they live in cities, suburbs and rural areas.

Recognizing indicators of human trafficking is the first step in identifying a victim. A fearful, timid or submissive disposition; signs of food, water, sleep or medical deprivation; disorientation, confusion or other symptoms of mental or physical abuse; lack of personal possessions or the appearance of unstable living situations are some common human trafficking indicators.  

To report suspected human trafficking call 1-866-347-2423. To get help from the National Human Trafficking Hotline call 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733).

Follow a victim-centered approach to human trafficking investigations

Victims who can tell their stories and testify as witnesses are key to successful human trafficking investigations and prosecutions. When encountering a potential victim, it is important to remember that victims may not be comfortable coming forward and working with law enforcement. They need help to feel stable, safe and secure before telling their story and testifying as a witness.

When law enforcement encounter a potential victim of trafficking, they can develop rapport and establish trust by:

  • Immediately connecting the victim to a victim specialist who can connect them to support services ― emphasizing that assistance is available regardless of the outcome of the investigation and prosecution;
  • Taking time to explain who they are, answer questions they might have and acknowledge and address their fears;
  • Being sensitive to cultural differences and language barriers and using an interpreter when needed;
  • Conducting interviews in a neutral location, only after the victim’s needs have been assessed and any urgent needs have been met; and
  • Being patient and giving the victim time to stabilize and begin their recovery process.

Join the collaborative effort to stop this heinous crime  

Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. It is estimated that human trafficking generates many billions of dollars of profit per year, second only to drug trafficking as the most profitable form of transnational crime. Law enforcement, government, non-governmental and private organizations must work together to stop this heinous crime, bring those who exploit human lives to justice and protect the basic right of freedom.

Get involved in the DHS Blue Campaign’s fight to end human trafficking. Awareness materials, free online training for law enforcement and educational videos are available at www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign. Learn how Albert Lea, Minnesota worked with the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Diagnostic Center to train local law enforcement on the signs of human trafficking.