Human trafficking is rarely a stand-alone crime. In addition to abusing victims, human traffickers frequently commit other crimes such as possessing/selling drugs, stealing firearms, assault, etc. Law enforcement agencies, therefore, play a critical role in apprehending traffickers. Here are some of the ways law enforcement agencies are doing their part in the fight against human trafficking.
When people think of trafficking, they typically picture a white, windowless van screeching to a halt to capture helpless victims. But human trafficking has become a lot more virtual and nuanced over the years. Police investigations often start with the internet, especially if they’re trying to take down sex traffickers. “The women are often sold online — and raped in person,” explains investigative journalist Andrew Keiper. “Much of the police work is done on the Internet, a task that can weigh on investigators enduring long hours and reviewing endless streams of disturbing content.”
Tedious virtual investigations can be frustrating for officers, anxious to spring into action and bring justice to the captors. But they know that building an airtight case before they bust down the doors is a valuable part of the prosecution process and will do whatever it takes to put traffickers behind bars.
Law enforcement agencies also combat this issue using human trafficking task forces. A task force is a unit of officers that are assembled with the sole purpose of targeting a specific crime. Human trafficking task forces typically investigate traffickers and, once they have a strong case built, plan and carry out sting operations.
Task forces have proven to be incredibly effective, particularly for taking down larger trafficking groups. The goal is two-fold:
- Capture traffickers and execute justice on behalf of the victims.
- Bring trafficked individuals to safety and provide them with the practical, medical, and psychological resources they need to heal and live a normal life.
Human trafficking task forces work in conjunction with organizations like the FBI, other local police departments, and attorneys. A lot of planning and collaboration go into these operations, so teamwork is key.
“Human traffickers work across jurisdictions; therefore, task forces need to be positioned to do so as well. Navigating complex jurisdictional dynamics often involves a multitude of investigators and prosecutors at the federal, state, and local levels who may not have worked together before or who have a complicated past history. Successful human trafficking investigations depend on overcoming such barriers to create practical and functional cooperation.”Office for Victims of Crime, Training and Technical Assistance Center
Law enforcement agencies are a tremendous asset in the fight against modern slavery, but you can also be part of that. Confronting traffickers is a dangerous task and seeing victims being taken advantage of is mentally and emotionally taxing. But members of law enforcement do their job with courage, patience, skill, and empathy, making them a force to be reckoned with on the front lines.