The emphasis in this exploratory study was on the difficult investigative and prosecutorial issues involved in dealing with a complex form of multijurisdictional organized crime and the extent to which local officials have responded to it. The researchers focused on the prevalence, context, and characteristics of human trafficking cases and victims across the study sites. The goals of this study were as follows:
Describe and document the numbers of unidentified victims of various forms of human trafficking;
Interpret the issues, opportunities, and barriers for law enforcement in dealing with victims, building cases, and apprehending and prosecuting traffickers;
Identify the characteristics of victims and perpetrators of human trafficking;
Determine the number and types of cases that involve trafficking behavior that were charged as other offenses;
Examine the barriers encountered by law enforcement and service delivery organizations in responding to suspected perpetrators and victims of human trafficking.
Additionally, definitional issues and shortcomings in the term "trafficking" were considered which underscored the difficulties in studying this issue.
This study was limited to human trafficking that occurs within the United States. As such, the focus was on state and local organizations. The study design included a three-pronged research approach.
Stage One: Conducted telephone screening interviews and interviews with local human trafficking stakeholders, including two law enforcement representatives, one prosecutor, and two service provider organization representatives from each sampled site. Also, conducted brief telephone interviews with state officials for the selected counties to determine overall state experience with human trafficking.
Stage Two: Sent mail-out statistical surveys to law enforcement, prosecutors, and service providers in each selected county. These surveys addressed several questions of interest that do not lend themselves easily to immediate responses in a telephone interview, because respondents generally would need to search internal records to respond appropriately.
Stages One and Two were conducted simultaneously, while the full interviews were conducted only in jurisdictions and agencies indicating awareness of and involvement in human trafficking cases.
Stage Three: Based on a review of data from the first two stages, four sites to visit and code case files of potential human trafficking cases were selected. This permitted the identification of cases that may have started as human trafficking cases or had indications of human trafficking activities but ultimately resulted in arrests and prosecutions for other offenses. Cases also may have started as some other offense only to be determined upon further investigation that they included aspects of human trafficking. The four sites included two counties with state anti-human trafficking laws and two without state legislation. Site selection also included regional variation, with one in the West, one in the Midwest, one in the South, and one in the Mid-Atlantic regions.
The sample for this study consisted of 60 counties from 30 different states. Of the 30 states, 20 had some form of anti-human trafficking legislation in place and 10 states did not. Part of the sample was drawn purposively and the remainder was drawn in stratified random fashion. Prior to selecting counties from among the 3,141 counties in the United States, the researchers eliminated the 52 counties that participated in U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) funded trafficking task forces as they are being investigated in a separate study. From among the remaining counties, the 20 most populous counties were selected with certainty. The remaining counties were grouped into six strata by geographic region of the country and law enforcement agency size. These strata represented population size, geographical location (namely on the U.S. border), and regions of the country.
Note: Detailed sampling methodology can be found in the Sample section of the final report.
All United States counties that did not receive funds from the Department of Justice for human trafficking task forces.
Local law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and service providers delivering services to human trafficking victims in these counties between 2005 to 2007.
Case Review Data (Dataset 13): Case files from four anonymous law enforcement jurisdictions.
administrative records data,
Telephone Screening Interviews Data
The Telephone Screening Interviews Data contains a set of core questions asked of each respondent group, organization-specific questions to provide context and statistical information for each organization. It is comprised of the following datasets:
Police Chief or Sheriff Screening Interview (Dataset 1: 9 records) - Variables include department's degree of experience in working on human trafficking.
Law Enforcement Screening Interview (Dataset 2: 50 records) - Variables include department's definition of human trafficking, state laws on human trafficking, experience in dealing with human trafficking, number of cases investigated, and referrals and interactions with other organizations with experience in human trafficking.
Prosecutor Screening Interview (Dataset 3: 22 records) - Variables include department's definition of human trafficking, state laws on human trafficking, experience in dealing with human trafficking, and number of cases investigated and prosecuted.
Service Provider Screening Interview (Dataset 4: 40 records) - Variables include unique identifier, provider's definition of human trafficking, state laws on human trafficking, degree of experience in working with human trafficking, number of victims assisted, services provided to victims, how victims were found, and experience working with law enforcement agencies.
Telephone Interview Data
The Telephone Interview Data consisted of a core set of questions for all respondents complemented by modules that applied specifically to local law enforcement officials and persecutors. The common variables were grouped into the following sections:
Section 1: Introduction and definition issues. Variables include department's understanding, experience, and protocols for human trafficking investigations.
Section 2: Investigative process. Variables include the detailed process of investigating human trafficking cases from identification to potential prosecution.
Section 3: Relationship summary. Variables include the relationships between various human trafficking stakeholders.
Section 4: Characteristics of perpetrators and victims of human trafficking. Variables include demographics and details on victims of labor and sex trafficking cases and questions on identifying potential human trafficking cases that may not have been labeled as such.
Section 5: Sex trafficking vs. work in the sex industry. Variables include the differences in the demographics, location, and activities between sex trafficking victims and workers in the sex industry.
Section 6: Purchasers of sex trafficking vs purchasers of services in the sex industry. Variables include demographics of purchasers and difference in enforcement of laws for sex trafficking versus work in the sex industry.
The datasets that follow comprise the Telephone Interview Data. The sections that are specifically referenced here differ substantively from the content covered in the common variables described above:
Law Enforcement Telephone Interview (Dataset 5: 26 records)
Section 7: Dollar value of the commercial sex economy, including sex trafficking and work in the sex industry. Variables include demographics of the various parties involved in the sex industry and estimates of the various financial transactions.
Section 8: Ending. Variables include other comments that the respondents may have on human trafficking and referrals to other experts.
Prosecutor Telephone Interview (Dataset 6: 2 records)
Section 1: Introduction and definition issues. In addition to the common variables listed above this data set includes variables on plea negotiations and their results.
Section 7: Ending. Variables include other comments that the respondents may have on human trafficking and referrals to other experts.
Service Provider Telephone Interview (Dataset 7: 21 records)
Section 1: Introduction and definition issues. Variables include organizations' understanding, experience, protocols for human trafficking investigations, and details about the organization.
Section 2: Services provided. Variables include clients served, services rendered, and the existence of sex trafficking characteristics in the sex industry, how victims are discovered and experience of working with other agencies.
Section 3: Victims served and perpetrators encountered. Variables include victim and perpetrator demographics.
Section 4: Difference between sex trafficking and sex industry. Variables include differences in demographics between sex trafficking victims and sex workers.
Section 5: Experience with law enforcement. Variables include details on the relationship and collaborations with law enforcement agencies.
Section 6: Ending. Variables include other comments that the respondents may have on human trafficking and referrals to other experts.
Mail-out Survey Data
The Mail-out Survey Data is comprised of the following datasets:
Law Enforcement Mail-out Survey (Dataset 8: 40 records) - Variables include number of sex industry, sex trafficking, and labor trafficking investigations, arrests, open cases and prosecutions.
Prosecutor Mail-out Survey (Dataset 9: 7 records) - Variables include number of sex industry, sex trafficking, and labor trafficking investigations, arrests, open cases and prosecutions, types of guilty pleas related to labor trafficking, sex trafficking and sex industry, sentence lengths by charge and the proportion prosecuted by local, state and federal criminal justice systems.
Service Provider Mail-out Survey (Dataset 10: 13 records) - Variables include number of clients served, referred to law enforcement, and arrests, prosecution and conviction from referrals.
National Estimate Data
The National Estimate Data is comprised of the following datasets:
Law Enforcement National Estimate (Dataset 11: 60 records) - Variables include county stratum, state anti-trafficking legislation, number of trafficking cases, number of sex industry cases and proportion of county under law enforcement's jurisdiction.
Prosecutor National Estimate (Dataset 12: 60 records) - Variables include county stratum, and state anti-trafficking legislation and number of trafficking cases.
Case Review Instrument Data
Case Review Data (Dataset 13: 362 records) - Variables include offense type, number of charges, description of offense conduct, number and demographics of perpetrators, number and demographics of victims, original charges, and plea information.
Note: Detailed variable descriptions can be found in the Instrument Development section of the final report.
For response rate see Table 5 in the final report.