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Policing Human Trafficking: Cultural Blinders and Organizational Barriers

NCJ Number
Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science Volume: 653 Issue: 1 Dated: May 2014 Pages: 46-64
Amy Farrell; Rebecca Pfeffer
Date Published
May 2014
19 pages
Using data from case records and qualitative interviews with police, prosecutors, and victim service providers in 12 counties, this article discusses the challenges local police face in identifying cases of human trafficking.
Since 2000, the Federal Government and all 50 States have passed laws that criminalize the trafficking of persons for labor and commercial sex. To date, relatively few human trafficking cases have been identified, investigated, and prosecuted by local criminal justice authorities. The current study found that the culture of local police agencies and the perceptions of police officials about human trafficking do not support the identification of a broad range of human trafficking cases. Since local definitions of human trafficking are still evolving, police focus on sex trafficking of minors, which they perceive to be the most serious problem facing their communities. Reluctance to differentiate between vice and sex trafficking minimizes the problem of human trafficking and makes labor trafficking seem largely nonexistent. (Publisher abstract modified)