I'm going to begin today's presentation with a story… A young woman from Guatemala was kidnapped and brought to Florida by a Guatemalan native. He forced the girl to work long, grueling days in tomato fields and then forced her to have sex with him at night. Upon discovering the two together, his wife became enraged. The man, in turn, physically assaulted his wife, who then called the police. Local law enforcement initially treated the case as a domestic violence situation, but wondered why a young, non-English-speaking woman was cowering in a corner of the room. Suspecting that she could be a trafficking victim, they took her to a local domestic violence shelter. The man is currently serving a nine-year prison sentence for kidnapping, immigration violations, slavery and conspiracy to manufacture false documents. The young woman became one of the first trafficking victims to be granted a T visa through the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, allowing her to stay in the United States. You will learn more about this law and how it helps trafficking victims later on in this presentation. What would have happened to the young Guatemalan woman had the police not looked beneath the surface of this situation that may have appeared to be a typical case of domestic violence?
The story I just shared was important because it brings to life the harsh realities of human trafficking, regarded by many today as modern-day slavery. Human trafficking is the exploitation of a person for forced sex or labor. As law enforcement officers, it’s important for you to understand what human trafficking is, and for you to be able to distinguish a victim of trafficking from a criminal because the next [prostitute, stripper, migrant worker, illegal immigrant] you bust may actually be a victim of human trafficking – not a criminal. Today, I hope you walk away from this presentation with an understanding of why your role as law enforcement officers is critical in identifying and assisting victims of human trafficking. This presentation should provide you with: An overview of human trafficking including the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. We will discuss strategies for identifying the crime of human trafficking and how to identify victims and manage them as witnesses. Explain the particular services available to a victim of trafficking. We will discuss your role as local law enforcement officers and the importance of your role in combating human trafficking.
Human trafficking is a devastating human rights violation that takes place not only internationally, but also here in the United States. It is, indeed, a form of modern-day slavery. Traffickers use force, fraud or coercion to enslave their victims into situations involving sexual exploitation or forced labor. Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world today, often operated by organized crime syndicates.
There are primarily two types of human trafficking: Sex Trafficking and Labor Trafficking. Sex trafficking operations occur in highly visible venues such as street prostitution, as well as more underground locations such as closed-brothel systems that operate out of residential homes. Sex trafficking also takes place in a variety of public and private locations such as massage parlors, spas, strip clubs and other fronts for prostitution. Victims may start off dancing or stripping in clubs and are often coerced into more exploitative situations of prostitution and pornography. Forced labor occurs in various forms including domestic servitude such as nannies and maids, sweatshop factories, janitorial jobs, construction sites, farm work, restaurants and panhandling. It is important to clarify that the crime of trafficking actually occurs when the victim is exploited for sex or forced labor – not when the victim is moved from one location to another. As law enforcement officers, you may come in contact with victims of sex or labor trafficking but may mistake them as willing participants and either arrest them or see no reason to intervene. The purpose of this presentation is to encourage you to look beneath the surface when encountering these types of crimes and to ask yourselves if these are actually victims forced into these situations rather than criminals.
Human trafficking is an horrific international problem, with nearly a million victims trafficked across international borders annually. However, this is not just an international problem. Trafficking also takes place here in the United States. The U.S. State Department estimates that between 18,000 and 20,000 victims are trafficked into this country each year. More than half of those trafficked into the United States are children, although many women and men are victims as well. The majority of trafficking victims come to the United States from Asia, Latin America, Russia, Eastern Europe and Canada (but also Africa and India). Trafficking victims sent to the United States typically do not speak English. They often are unable to communicate with service providers, police, or others who might be able to help them. When a victim of trafficking is identified, it no longer matters what their purpose or intent was for coming to the United States. Under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, victims of trafficking can apply for special visas or receive other forms of immigration relief.
As law enforcement officers interacting with potential victims of human trafficking, it’s important for you to keep in mind where the victim is coming from and what their mindset is when they come in contact with you. These are just a few examples of the mindset of a typical victim of human trafficking [Refer to examples on the slide].
Many victims of trafficking are forced to work in the sex trade. However, trafficking also takes place in labor situations such as domestic servitude, sweatshop factories, or migrant agricultural work. Traffickers use force, fraud and coercion to traffic women, men and children.
Understanding the mindset of human trafficking victims, it’s easy to see why there are several myths or misconceptions associated with human trafficking. As law enforcement officers, it’s important for you to be aware of these myths and to look beyond them to see the issue of human trafficking to help expose the real criminals, the traffickers. Although prostitution is probably the most common type of crime in which you may encounter victims of trafficking, there is an overall misconception that all prostitutes are willing participants, or even broader, that all sex trade participants are prostitutes. That as participants they are proactively involved in the sex trade on their own free will. While this may in fact be the case for some, it often times is not the case for victims of human trafficking, who are forced or coerced into the sex trade by traffickers. Victims of trafficking may be perceived as prostitutes because they often do not initially self-identify as victims. However, if you look beneath the surface of someone you may think is a typical prostitute, you may find an innocent victim in need of help and protection.
There are significant differences between victims of human trafficking and migrants who are smuggled into the United States. Again, you may be in a situation where you arrest someone on illegal immigration charges because someone cannot produce the proper documentation. Don’t make the assumption that this person was willingly smuggled into the United States illegally and is, therefore, a criminal. It’s important for you to look beneath the surface of that person because: Victims of human trafficking are coerced or fraudulently induced into trafficking while smuggling cases include those who freely and knowingly consent. Victims of human trafficking are continuously exploited for labor or commercial sex, while the act of smuggling ends when the migrants arrive at the intended destination. Movement from place to place is not a requisite to the crime of trafficking. For example, victims can be trafficked even if they are not transported from country to country. In contrast, human smuggling involves the illegal transport of persons across international borders. Some victims of human trafficking travel willingly and legally to the United States with the proper documentation. However, once they come into contact with their trafficker or “employer,” their legal documents are usually taken from them, never to be seen again.
Because there is a Federal law that prosecutes against crimes involving the trafficking of humans, it is often assumed that all crimes of human trafficking are prosecuted at the Federal level, and therefore, there is no role or stake for state or local law enforcement. [We will review this law shortly, which is the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.] During the course of committing trafficking crimes, traffickers frequently commit state crimes such as murder, kidnapping, battery, assault, sexual battery and false imprisonment. The best way to successfully prosecute a human trafficking case is through a collaboration between local law enforcement, Federal authorities and social service providers . Of course, this isn’t the only way, but the Feds and social services will eventually have to get involved anyway, so to proactively involve them is a more effective strategy. As local law enforcement officers, you play an essential role in prosecuting traffickers. You may be the first officer to encounter potential victims of trafficking at the scene of a crime.
As I just mentioned, as local law enforcement officers, you play an essential role in prosecuting traffickers. You may be the first officer to encounter potential victims of human trafficking at the scene of the crime. Often times, persons identified/encountered in criminal investigations are assumed to be criminals (willing participants of the crime), not victims. Victims are often arrested under the assumption they are criminals or illegal immigrants willingly smuggled into the United States. As I mentioned earlier, it’s important as law enforcement officers that you look beneath the surface of those you encounter or arrest. Doing so might reveal you’re actually dealing with victims of human trafficking. You may have difficulties distinguishing between perpetrators and victims when coming upon crime scenes. Later on in the presentation, we will discuss strategies to identify victims of human trafficking and how to manage them first as victims, then as witnesses.
Now that we’ve talked about what human trafficking is and have discussed the myths and realities associated with human trafficking, I want to provide you with an overview of the law that was passed in 2000 to solidify human trafficking as a Federal crime with strict penalties for perpetrators convicted of the crime, and benefits and services for victims of the crime. The TVPA was enacted to deter human trafficking – the fastest growing source of profits for organized crime worldwide. [Refer to the slide for overview of the VTPA 2000]
The law authorizes prevention efforts that include public awareness and education programs. Protection and assistance for victims of trafficking under the law includes legal assistance and interpretation, job training and counseling programs. The TVPA establishes a new visa status, the T visa , which allows victims of severe forms of trafficking to become temporary residents of the United States. The T visa signifies a shift in the immigration law policy, which previously treated victims of trafficking as illegal aliens subject to deportation. The T visa is a critical tool as it will help keep victims in the United States legally so they can cooperate with you and serve as witnesses for the prosecution. New law enforcement efforts are now available through the law, making it easier to prosecute traffickers who are identified and convicted of trafficking offenses, which I will talk about more on the next slide. The law makes victims of severe forms of trafficking eligible for benefits and services under Federal or state programs once they become certified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Once certified, trafficking victims will be eligible to apply for benefits and services under any Federal or state funded programs, to the same extent as refugees. Certified victims are also eligible for refugee cash, medical assistance and social services. Victims under 18 years of age do not need to be certified in order to be eligible for benefits and services. For these victims, the Department of Health and Human Services issues a “Letter of Eligibility” so that they have proof of eligibility for federally funded and administered benefits and services. Victims of human trafficking who are non-U.S. citizens are eligible to receive benefits and services through the TVPA to the same extent as refugees. Victims who are U.S. citizens, do not need to be certified by HHS and are already eligible to receive many of these benefits.
TVPA imposes stricter sentences on those convicted of committing crimes of human trafficking. For example, if a trafficking crime results in death or if the crime includes kidnapping, an attempted kidnapping, aggravated sexual abuse, attempted aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, the trafficker could be sentenced to life in prison. Traffickers who exploit children (under the age of 14) using force, fraud or coercion, for the purpose of sex trafficking can be imprisoned for life. If the victim was a child between the age of 14 and 18 and the sex trafficking did not involve force, fraud or coercion, the trafficker could receive up to 20 years in prison. Moreover, the law addresses the subtle means of coercion used by traffickers to bind their victims into servitude, including: psychological coercion, trickery, and the seizure of documents, activities which were difficult to prosecute under preexisting involuntary servitude statutes and case law.
There are ways for you to use the TVPA to prosecute crimes associated with human trafficking at the state and local levels. Human trafficking crimes involving [Refer to list on slide] can be prosecuted locally.
In December, the President signed the Trafficking Victims Reauthorization Act, which authorized more than $200 million to combat the issue of human trafficking, particularly of women and children forced into prostitution. TVPRA provides fresh resources to assist victims of trafficking and even further strengthens the law enforcement tools designed in the original law: TVPRA adds human trafficking to the list of racketeering offenses covered under the Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO Statute) and allows trafficking victims to sue their captors in Federal courts.
In meeting the President’s challenge to combat human trafficking, it’s important for you as law enforcement officers to approach these crimes differently from the ways you might approach other criminal investigations. Following are key factors to consider when encountering situations that may involve crimes of human trafficking. [Refer to list on the slide]
Often times you will be faced with the perpetrator or trafficker at the scene of a crime, who will provide you with the alleged explanations of the situation. In these cases, it’s important for you to note some of these factors at the scene of the crime as they may indicate there are victims of human trafficking: What are their living conditions? Can you see or detect any physical abuse? What are their working conditions? Are there indications of restriction (are they allowed to leave the premises)? Are there any behavioral indicators of severe dependency, submissive behavior, fearful behavior in the presence of others? Who is in physical possession of their legal documents of identification? Who insists on providing information to law enforcement? Are they in the country legally?
As I mentioned earlier, as law enforcement officers, you are most likely to be first to the scene of a crime that involves human trafficking. However the biggest challenge for you will be the difficulty of identifying victims of human trafficking. It’s important for you to look beneath the surface of these types of crimes [Refer to list on slide] – crimes you may encounter on a daily basis – to identify victims of human trafficking.
Once you think you have encountered a crime scene involving human trafficking, there are other key factors you’ll need to consider when identifying potential victims and distinguishing them from the real criminals – their traffickers. A person who is trafficked may look like anyone you encounter at a crime scene, but sensitively asking the right questions and looking for small clues will help you identify those people who have been fraudulently induced, forced or coerced into a life of sexual exploitation or forced labor. Look for the following clues: [Refer to list of clues on the slide] You should also take into consideration victims’ cultural and social background as these traits will impact the way victims should be managed as witnesses, as well as the way the investigation of their cases is carried out. Victims may not be able to communicate with you because of language or cultural barriers. Victims often have a fear of being deported. Victims may appear to you as a prostitute or a willing participant in the trafficker’s enterprise. Victims frequently do not self-identify themselves as victims. Victims may display an allegiance to their trafficker/employer.
Victims of human trafficking are vulnerable human beings who have been subjected to severe physical and emotional coercion. These trafficking victims are usually in desperate need of assistance. Victims of human trafficking need to know that once they come in contact with law enforcement officers, they should feel protected and safe. There are benefits and services available to trafficking victims. And the TVPA authorizes special benefits and services to adult victims who are willing to cooperate in the prosecution of their traffickers and to minor victims regardless of whether they are willing to cooperate. These benefits and services include legal, healthcare, counseling, housing, food, medical, cash and employment assistance. HHS has also created a toll-free number for law enforcement officers to call if they have identified a victim of trafficking. By calling the Trafficking Information and Referral Hotline, 1.888.3737.888, you can help identified victims of trafficking get this assistance, and they can help you prosecute and convict the real criminals. For more information on human trafficking visit www.acf.hhs.gov/trafficking.
In order to transition a victim of human trafficking from a victim to a witness, there are some key points to consider and key messages you should convey. This slide illustrates some characteristics of the victim’s mindset and offers some messages to convey to victims to reassure them they are in safe hands. An effective method for obtaining cooperation of a victim of human trafficking is to put their needs first. A successful investigation and prosecution of a human trafficking case is victim-centered. This requires lending support to traumatized and confused victims before you can gain their confidence. Although capturing and convicting the trafficker are top priorities, it is more strategic to put the safety, education and concerns of the victims first throughout the case investigation and prosecution. Effective communication is essential in gaining trust of victims as well as defining their immediate needs. Effective witness management extends into the courtroom when the time comes to present testimony and evidence to a jury. F irst and foremost, you will need to keep in mind that most victims fear deportation. Once it is revealed they do not have their legal identification, they will expect you to charge them as illegal immigrants and have them deported back to their country of origin. While many of these victims are women and children who have been raped or beaten, their current situation may actually be better than where they came from. Therefore, it will be important for you to convey to the victim that they are safe and that they will not be deported. Most victims of trafficking do not self-identify themselves as victims. They assume what they are doing is just a way of life, a way to make a living. They don’t know that what has been done to them is illegal. Victims may project a sense of fear or distrust toward you, which could originate from the negative perceptions of law enforcement in their countries of origin. It’s critical for you to convey that you can protect them and help them to obtain the assistance they need. Most victims will generally be unaware of any rights they may have. From their perspective, they may not think they even have the right to live. Therefore, it’s important for you to tell them they do have rights and that they may be entitled to receive benefits and services to rebuild their lives. These communication tips will help you gain the trust of the victim and will help with the transition from victim to witness.
Should you encounter a person who may be a victim of human trafficking, there are key questions you can ask that may help you to properly identify that person as a victim and can help you build a criminal investigation [refer to list of key questions on slide]. It’s important for you as law enforcement officers to really look beneath the surface of those you encounter at crime scenes. The next prostitute, stripper, runaway youth or illegal immigrant you encounter may actually be a victim of human trafficking, in desperate need of your help. Asking these questions can help you make the distinction between victim and criminal.
You have a critical role in helping to identify victims of human trafficking and prosecuting their traffickers – the real criminals. It’s important that you keep doing what you’re doing. As local law enforcement officers, you are most often the first responder or the first to encounter individuals at the scene of a crime, making your role in identifying victims and perpetrators key to building a case. Go to crime scenes, question potential perpetrators and potential victims, assess crime scenes and collect evidence. But when you do all of these things, take a closer look, beneath the surface. What you think you’re looking at may in fact be a crime scene involving victims of human trafficking. Remember, the next prostitute, stripper runaway youth or illegal immigrant you take into custody could be a victim of human trafficking. As I mentioned earlier, there are other crimes committed by traffickers that may also be prosecuted at the state level such as violent crimes of murder, kidnapping , b attery, assault , sexual battery and false imprisonment. Most often it is local law enforcement personnel who initially encounter victims of trafficking out in the field. A successful policing strategy on the local level will incorporate cooperation with Federal authorities in the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking and will coordinate efforts with local social service providers to meet the immediate needs of the trafficking victims. If you think you have come in contact with a potential victim of human trafficking, you should call 1.888.3737.888, the Trafficking Information and Referral Hotline, to further assist any victims you identify and to find out how helping those victims can help you build your case to prosecute and convict their traffickers. For more information on human trafficking visit www.acf.hhs.gov/trafficking.
Before we conclude today’s presentation, I want to share another example of success in which victims of human trafficking were identified and helped by local law enforcement officers. [Insert talking points for case study]
Thank you for your taking the time to learn about this important issue and how you can help. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Look Beneath the Surface:
Role of Law Enforcement Officers in Identifying and Helping
Force, fraud and coercion are methods used by traffickers to press victims
into lives of servitude, abuse
Force: Rape, beatings, confinement
Fraud: Includes false and deceptive offers of employment, marriage, better life
Coercion: T hreats of serious harm to, or physical restraint of, any person; any scheme, plan or pattern intended to cause victims to believe that failure to perform an act would result in restraint against them; or the abuse or threatened abuse of the legal process.