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Understanding Human Trafficking

Law enforcement agencies in the United States have encountered some form of human trafficking or contacted victims through routine work and investigations. Victim service providers may also come into contact with trafficking victims in a variety of settings. Too many victims are misidentified and treated as criminals or undocumented migrants. In some cases, victims are hidden behind doors in domestic servitude in a home; others experience commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor in public settings.

What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking often involves severe violence to its victims, along with a host of other crimes, including gang, drug, and property crimes. Under federal law, human trafficking is defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion. See Chapter 1.4 Human Trafficking Laws for additional information.

Who is a Victim?

Victims of this crime may be men, women, transgender persons, adults, minors, U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, or foreign nationals. Any person under the age of 18 who engages in commercial sex acts, regardless of the use of force, fraud, or coercion, is a victim of human trafficking - even if they appear to consent to the commercial sex act. Regardless of background, the common denominator is some form of vulnerability.

Who is a Trafficker?

Traffickers can be pimps, family members, peers and intimate partners, gangs and criminal networks, diplomats, business owners (legitimate and those operating as a commercial front for the illicit activity), labor brokers, farm owners, factories, and companies large and small. People often incorrectly assume that all traffickers are males; however, several cases in the United States involve women as traffickers. Traffickers choose targets based on vulnerability, and they use recruitment or enticement tactics and methods of control that will work most effectively.

Human trafficking is believed to be one of the fastest growing illicit industries in the world. A strong multidisciplinary task force that utilizes talents from all sectors can add to this momentum. The riskier the crime becomes; the less incentive exists for perpetrators to commit the crime.

Human Trafficking Task Force e-Guide. (n.d.).

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