How to Spot a Human Trafficking Bust
Human trafficking is a heinous crime that exploits vulnerable victims like modern-day slaves. Victims are often sold as prostitutes or forced to work in restaurants, factories, or as migrant workers.
They can be beaten or tortured if they fail to meet their quotas. They also can be forced to work excessive hours.
1. Police Intercepted a Vehicle
Most trafficking situations are identified proactively, by police responding to reports from victims or others. These tips were the most common method for identifying trafficking, followed by a police officer encountering the suspects and/or victims in the course of their duties (N = 296, 38.9%).
An anti-trafficking hotline receives a call from a woman who says she’s been forced to prostitute herself in motels across the state. She reveals she’s a victim of human trafficking and says her pimp threatened to hurt her family back home in Central America if she didn’t do what he asked.
The sheriff’s office charges Maria Guzman and Freddy Escalona with sex trafficking after the two women are arrested for crossing into Texas from Mexico. Guzman and Escalona allegedly provided the women with fraudulent Texas driver’s licenses so they could pass through a checkpoint. They also allegedly charged their victims for sex and transportation. Police believe the pair are part of a larger human trafficking ring.
2. Police Intercepted a Vehicle
When police officers see a vehicle that’s transporting people to and from places where they plan to engage in commercial sex, it could be a sign of human trafficking. Officers are in a great position to identify this type of crime during routine traffic stops and while patrolling domestic violence calls, inspecting liquor licenses, or intercepting truant children. In fact, line-level officers have identified and prosecuted most of the perpetrators in cases involving human trafficking.
During this operation, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said 83 suspects were arrested for soliciting prostitution or traveling to an undercover location to negotiate having sex for money. He says detectives also screened each of these suspects for signs they were victims of labor human trafficking. The sheriff’s office says it has evidence connecting one of the accused, Anthony Bernard Carter, to a previous exploited victim. These “historical” victims are crucial to the prosecution of sex traffickers, and law enforcement should always seek additional, corroborated information about potential victims.
3. Police Intercepted a Vehicle
During routine traffic stops, law enforcement officers can be in a position to spot human trafficking crimes if they know what to look for. This incident in Ohio illustrates how police intercepted a vehicle to stop two suspects who were transporting girls for prostitution.
The girls told investigators that their trafficker promised them work and school supplies. They also said the trafficker beat them when they did not behave the way she wanted. Police are now working to identify and assist the victims.
Often, when law enforcement officers receive credible tips from victims of sexual exploitation, they immediately raid locations the victim identified and arrest the sex trafficker. However, it is important for investigators to exhaust all covert methods of identifying locations and victims before taking this course of action. This allows them to gather a wealth of evidence and potentially save lives in the process. This is one of the main reasons why it is so crucial for law enforcement agencies to partner with each other.
4. Police Intercepted a Vehicle
Police officers who make routine traffic stops are in a unique position to spot human trafficking crimes, if they know what to look for. This is particularly true in cases involving the transportation of victims.
An anti-trafficking hotline receives a call from a terrified young woman who says her pimp has forced her to prostitute herself in motels around the country. He had promised her the money she earned would pay for school supplies and clothes.
Sex trafficking — defined by the 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) as the recruitment, harboring, transporting, provision, obtaining, or soliciting of persons for commercial sex acts involving force, fraud, or coercion — is a heinous crime that exploits the most vulnerable in our society. It can affect both children and adults, of any race or sexual orientation.
A sheriff’s office in North Texas has charged two suspects for allegedly trafficking a woman to prostitution. The sheriff’s office said that one of the suspects was in the country illegally and that he met the victim online claiming to be looking for construction workers.