Human Trafficking: Local Law Enforcement Awareness

Human trafficking can be a difficult crime for local law enforcement to recognize, and often misidentified during the initial law enforcement encounter as a possible prostitution problem, domestic argument, workplace altercation, etc.

Incidents of human trafficking have occurred in all fifty states. Victims of human trafficking are usually scared when they encounter local law enforcement because they know that their forced actions at the hands of their exploiter are illegal and they fear arrest, when in fact they are victims of human trafficking. First responders need to spend the time to look beneath the surface if indicators of human trafficking are present.

Indicators of Human Trafficking

  • Evidence the person is being controlled, captive, or imprisoned
  • Non-English speaking and no passport or identification
  • Evidence that the person is not free to leave their job at will
  • Signs of physical abuse
  • No address or family contact
  • Another person speaks for the person
  • Indication that juvenile is a run-away
  • Noticeable age difference between older male and younger woman

Questions When Suspecting Human Trafficking

  • What type of work do you do?
  • Are you being paid?
  • Are you free to leave your job?
  • Are you free to go and come as pleased?
  • Have you or your family been threatened if you refuse to work?
  • Where and what are your living conditions?
  • Are there locks on the doors/windows so you will not leave?
  • Do you have to ask permission to eat/sleep/use the bathroom?

Human Trafficking Awareness Training for Local Law Enforcement

The Polaris Project has reported that 29 states now have or require some sort of law enforcement human trafficking awareness and recognition training. Through human trafficking awareness training, local law enforcement officers learn the skills necessary to recognize the indicators of human trafficking.

The curriculum for local law enforcement human trafficking training can vary depending on the agencies primary mission, geographic jurisdiction, and the diversity of the population within the jurisdictions.

General recommendation and topics for local law enforcement human trafficking awareness training:

  • Defining human trafficking
  • Federal and state laws on human trafficking
  • Identify populations vulnerable to human trafficking
  • Recognize indicators of human trafficking occurring
  • Local enforcement strategies
  • Reporting suspected human trafficking activities
  • Resources

Local law enforcement agencies needing training materials on human trafficking awareness can contact the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Blue Campaign


About the Author

Mark Bond

Mark Bond has worked in law enforcement and has been a firearms instructor for more than 33 years. His law enforcement experience includes the military, local, state and federal levels as a police officer and criminal investigator. Mark obtained a BS and MS in criminal justice, and M.Ed in educational leadership with Summa Cum Laude honors. As a lifelong learner, he is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in education (EdD) with a concentration in college teaching and learning. Mark is currently an assistant professor of criminal justice at a university and adjunct professor of administration of justice studies at a community college.


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