New Report Offers Best Practices for Human Trafficking Investigations

September 14, 2023

Experts highlight the need to develop national training standards for law enforcement to help anti-human trafficking efforts

Posted in: Press Releases

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The Global Center on Human Trafficking at Montclair State University has announced the release of a new report titled, “Understanding and Improving Investigations of Human Trafficking-Focus on Sex Trafficking.”

Convened by the Global Center on Human Trafficking in collaboration with Federal Homeland Security Investigations Foundation and Fermata Discovery, the report shares the findings of a National Expert Working Group comprised of the nation’s leading anti-trafficking law enforcement, service providers, lived experience professionals, and Montclair State University faculty.

“This report intends to shed light on the current state of law enforcement investigations of human trafficking and provide law enforcement with recommendations for best practices when investigating and prosecuting the crime of human trafficking.” explains Ali Boak, Director of the Global Center on Human Trafficking at Montclair.

Key Findings

The 43-page report provides details about many best practices and recommendations for successful investigation and prosecution of human trafficking cases.

Some key recommendations include:

  • Need To Develop Anti-Human Trafficking National Training Standards for Law Enforcement
    This report highlights the need to develop national training standards for training law enforcement to address human trafficking from identification of potential victims/survivors, to the investigation and prosecution of traffickers. Expert participants found existing training to be “inconsistent, outdated, and does not incorporate best practices.”
  • Offering Survivors Peer Support and/or Mentoring during Anti-Trafficking Investigations Prosecution Leads to More Successful Outcomes
    Expert participants shared that when survivors of human trafficking have the support of a peer or mentor, they are more likely to and be better positioned to assist in the investigation and prosecution of their trafficker. Lived-experience professionals shared that the criminal justice system can be overwhelming and confusing, and having a trusted individual support them through the process is both useful and therapeutic.
  • Survivor inclusion in training, awareness campaigns, operation planning, trial preparation, etc. is critical to being trauma-informed and to mitigating trauma in an investigation
    Survivors of trafficking offer a unique and intimate lens through lived experience. Combined with professional experience built on anti-trafficking work and knowledge, they are able to use the information obtained through the field and apply their expertise to offer impactful insight on how best to combat trafficking, build programming, develop and lead training, and collaborate with victims and survivors during identification and afterward.

Human trafficking is a community issue that affects urban, suburban, and rural communities across the United States. Despite a substantial upsurge in awareness and efforts to address the problem of human trafficking over the past ten years, traffickers continue to operate with impunity in every part of the world.

The number of investigations and prosecutions across the nation likely represents only a tiny fraction of actual cases of human trafficking, although the exact percentage is unknown due to the lack of systematic data collection, the complexity of the crime, and misidentification of trafficking as other crimes in the criminal justice system.

According to Dr. Francesca Laguardia, Professor of Justice Studies at Montclair and an advisor to the Global Center on Human Trafficking, “A review of law enforcement and scholarly literature revealed that law enforcement is in general agreement on best practices to reduce and respond to human trafficking, but this agreement is not widely known or shared. We hope this report will provide law enforcement with easy access to best practices resulting in improved investigations and prosecutions of the crime of human trafficking.”
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“The Federal Enforcement Homeland Security Foundation is honored to partner with the Global Center on Human Trafficking at Montclair State University, a leader in developing innovative solutions to end human trafficking, on the preparation and release of this important report,” says Richard Kendall, Chief Executive Officer of the Chief Federal Enforcement Homeland Security Foundation. “By sharing the recommendations and best practices of some of our nations’ most experienced anti-trafficking law enforcement, the release of this report will aid in more victims and survivors of human trafficking receiving access to justice.”

“Grounded in research, this report gives us a powerful set of tools to confront human trafficking. This timely effort stands out for its blend of rigor and inclusivity, recognizing the challenges facing investigators while insisting that trafficking victims be the heart of the process.” Lou Debacca, former Ambassador at Large to Monitor and Combat Human Trafficking.

The National Expert Working Group is expected to release a sister report focusing on labor trafficking in Fall 2023.

For more information on the Global Center on Human Trafficking at Montclair State University, visit montclair.edu/human-trafficking.

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