Recently, there was coverage in the news of a large operation to combat human trafficking at the World Games in Alabama. Homeland Security Investigations headed-up “Operation Games Stop” with the cooperation of local law enforcement. As a result, many individuals were arrested, and several victims were rescued. In this week’s blog, we discuss human trafficking – what it is, how often it occurs, and what you can do to help.
What Is Human Trafficking?
Human trafficking is defined as recruitment, transportation, harboring, or receipt of people through various forms of force, fraud, or deception with the aim of exploiting those persons for profit. In general, such trafficking takes two forms: sex trafficking, or labor trafficking.
To accomplish their aims, traffickers may use force or violence to control their victims. They may also use schemes to trick their victims. For example, a trafficker may promise education or employment to coerce their victim. There is no age requirement for trafficking – both adults and children can be trafficked. Often times, it is the more vulnerable who are the victims of this crime.
There are federal crimes prohibiting both sex and labor trafficking. In New York, sex trafficking is criminalized under Penal Law Article 230, and labor trafficking is covered by Penal Law Article 135.
Signs of Human Trafficking
In most cases, traffickers will take as much care as possible to hide that people are being forced into sex or labor. However, there are some subtle signs:
- Appearing under-fed or malnourished
- Showing signs of abuse or injuries
- Lacking social skills, such as eye contact or engaging in casual conversations
- Adhering to scripted or rehearsed responses to questions
Other times, the persons who are trafficked may lack proper identification, such as a driver’s license or passport. In some situations, the trafficking victims may arrive and leave the location together and under careful watch. They may also live at the location they are forced to perform sex or labor.
Human trafficking can occur in any setting, but there are some types of employment in which it occurs more commonly. For example, massage parlors can be fronts for sex trafficking. In other cases, people who work at farms or at factories may be forced into labor. Servants, nannies, and maids can also be victims.
According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, more than 63,000 trafficking cases were reported in the US between 2007 and 2019. In New York in 2020, 414 trafficking cases were reported.
Human Trafficking Resources
The US Department of Homeland Security has created the Blue Campaign to provide information and resources on human trafficking. For more information, visit https://www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign.
If you suspect trafficking, you can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888. You can also text “HELP” or “INFO” to 233733 (BeFree). To contact federal law enforcement with a tip or information, call (866) 347-2423.
In New York, there are additional resources to combat trafficking. You can call your local police department (non-emergency line) or District Attorney’s Office to report a tip. In the event of an emergency, call 911.
- NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services, Human Trafficking. Available at: https://www.criminaljustice.ny.gov/pio/humantrafficking/humantrafficking.htm (last accessed July 20, 2022).
- National Human Trafficking Hotline. Available at: https://humantraffickinghotline.org/ (last accessed July 20, 2022).
- US Department of Homeland Security, Blue Campaign. Available at: https://www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign (last accessed July 20, 2022).
Image: Image by rawpixel.com