In an article released on August 16th, WGSS Executive committee member Amy Farrell discusses human trafficking and how “state and regional law enforcement records likely reflect less than 10 percent of trafficking victims.” This conclusion was arrived upon when Farrell and her colleagues noticed glaring issues with crime reporting, most notably the fact that local police often do not have specialized training to identify human trafficking. Furthermore, if police are equipped with the needed knowledge, it can also be incredibly difficult to persuade a victim of human trafficking to collaborate with the police investigation. In order to understand this phenomenon further, Farrell and her colleagues examined the crime reporting process in three different police jurisdictions across the country to see whether law enforcement officials had been properly trained to identify human trafficking, and how they kept track of the incidents they did identify. “What we were exploring was: What does this look like from a local law enforcement perspective?” Farrell says. They found that even when an officer identifies a victim of human trafficking and that victim is willing to work with the officer to further the case, the police district might not have the necessary tracking system to properly record the crime. Sometimes, Farrell says, sex trafficking cases are therefore misclassified as prostitution. This means people who are victims of a crime can be treated as offenders.
Farrell and her colleagues recommend continued training for law enforcement officials on how to identify human trafficking victims. They also recommend increased collaboration and information-sharing among law enforcement agencies, because trafficking crimes can often cross police jurisdictions. “These are difficult crimes,” Farrell says. “It’s taken the field of law enforcement some time to develop some expertise here, and we’re moving in a positive direction. But it’s slow.” Read the full article here!