AMU Careers & Learning Human Trafficking Law Enforcement Public Safety

It’s the Second Largest Criminal Enterprise in the World. Do You Know How to Identify Potential Human Trafficking Victims?

Human trafficking is modern-day slavery. Its victims are those who provide labor or services through force, fraud or coercion and it’s happening everywhere. Just last week, Canadian courts prosecuted what is thought to be the largest human trafficking case in the country. In the U.S., the FBI prosecuted a case involving 600 Thai victims who were recruited to work on American farms, but were paid little or nothing and held against their will.

The true size of this problem is immeasurable, but the Northern Tier Anti-Trafficking Consortium (NTAC) estimates that 800,000 individuals are trafficked across international borders every year and 27 million people in modern-day slavery across the world. On a global scale, human trafficking is estimated to be a $32 BILLION business, and tied with the sales of arms as the second largest criminal enterprise worldwide. Drug dealing remains the largest criminal enterprise.

Despite the scope of this criminal activity, awareness is relatively low. During the Microsoft Public Safety Symposium, held on March 13-15 in Redmond, Wash., Deputy Chief Kim Derry (retired) of the Toronto Police Department discussed human trafficking and the lack of awareness by the international law enforcement community. “There’s no coordination across the world,” he told the audience. “We need an international community. Operationally, there needs to be a willingness to share information.”

The solution may very well be in the works. The FBI National Academy is in the early stages of developing and implementing a NGO International Fusion Center on Human Trafficking. The National Academy has partnered with representatives from INTERPOL and the United Nations to develop this fusion center. INTERPOL will be the agency to handle issuing international arrest warrants resulting from fusion center actions. Furthermore, Microsoft has agreed to support the fusion center through appropriate software design and manufacture.

A significant part of fusion center activities will include the development and delivery of training for law enforcement agencies, which will be done both on the ground at the International Police Training Institute in Budapest, Hungary as well as through online training tools.  

As a precursor to the formation of the International Fusion Center, the National Academy will host a Human Trafficking Summit in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada in early November 2012. Attendance is anticipated by representatives from 150 countries. This summit will be three days of facilitated strategy focusing on the development of the fusion center and its operations. 

On the street level, what can the average cop do to help stop human trafficking?

The first step is to learn how to recognize it. Here are some tips to help you identify potential human trafficking victims:

Indicators of Trafficking:

  • You observe unusually heavy levels of security on site
  • Person or Persons of Interest:
    • Appear to live and work at the same location
    • Appear unable to leave location unaccompanied
    • Show signs of assault
    • Display poor personal hygiene
    • Do not have access to identity documents
    • Appear to have suffered from verbal or psychological abuse
    • Are paid little or nothing at all, or only allowed to keep tips
    • Are not in control of their own money, or have very limited access to  pocket money
    • Appear to work long hours with minimal or no breaks
    • Appear to owe a debt to an employer, labor recruiter/employment agency, or loan shark
    • Appear to have their communication restricted or controlled. They may not be allowed to speak for themselves, a third party may insist on interpreting, or they may seem watched or followed.
    • Exhibit unusually fearful or anxious behavior toward law enforcement or government employees.
    • Have numerous inconsistencies in their story.
    • Appear to have been told lies or deceitful information about their work situation or marriage

Trafficking Assessment Questions:


  • Did you come to the US for a specific job or purpose?
  • When you arrived, did you have to do different work than you were promised?

Immigration Status:

  • Do you have personal documents such as identification papers, passports, birth certificates etc.? If not, who does?


  • Are you free to leave your employment situation? What is your understanding of what would happen if you did?
  • Are there guards or video cameras at work?
  • Did you sign a contract? What did it say?
  • Did your employer provide your shelter? What were those conditions like?
  • Do you owe money to your employer?
  • Did your boss tell you what to say if the police come or you come into contact with a social service provider?
  • Are you forced to have sex as part of your job?
  • What happens if you make a mistake at work?
  • Where and how do you keep your wages?
  • Have you been physically harmed or threatened to be harmed in any way?
  • Have you been deprived of food, water, sleep, medical care?
  • Are you allowed to buy clothes and food on your own?
  • Are there rules about coming and going?
  • Can you freely call or write your friends and family?
  • Were you permitted to learn English?
  • Do you have a spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend?  What would happen if you tried to leave him/her? (Assesses for pimp control and labor exploitation of “mail order brides.”)

Leischen Kranick is a Managing Editor at AMU Edge. She has 15 years of experience writing articles and producing podcasts on topics relevant to law enforcement, fire services, emergency management, private security, and national security.

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