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Today's Slave Trade

Human Trafficking
Today’s Slave Trade

05/09/08

A Western man negotiating for a young Thai girl (far right), who clutches the arm of her trafficker. After settling on a price, the man left with the girl, and the trafficker left with her payment. Photo courtesy of the U.S. State Department.

A Western man negotiating for a young Thai girl
(far right), who clutches the arm of her trafficker.
After settling on a price, the man left with the girl,
and the trafficker left with her payment.
Photo courtesy of the U.S. State Department.

In 1999, a teenage girl was taken from a Haitian orphanage and smuggled—using phony documentation—into Miami, where she was forced to work as a domestic servant for up to 15 hours a day, seven days a week. She was never paid, not allowed to go to school, occasionally beaten, and subjected to other inhumane treatment. After suffering for nearly six years, she managed to escape in 2005. This March, justice was finally served when three of her captors were convicted in the case.

This is just one of hundreds of heart-breaking human trafficking cases the FBI investigates each year, in conjunction with local, state, and federal partners such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Our legal attachés stationed in embassies around the world also support our investigations that have an international nexus—which many do—by coordinating with our global partners.

Using a multi-pronged strategy, we address human trafficking by:

  • Participating in joint law enforcement task forces (there are up to 30 such task forces around the country right now);
  • Using intelligence to identify traffickers and gain insights into how they conduct their operations (i.e., finances, logistics);
  • Looking at possible human trafficking elements in cases initially identified as human smuggling, Internet crimes against children, and/or sex tourism matters; and
  • Perhaps most importantly, working closely with trafficking victims—many of whom don’t speak English—to enlist their help in prosecuting their captors AND to make sure they get the support they need to cope with the horrors they’ve been through and get back on their feet.

Training is another important aspect of how we address the human trafficking problem. In many instances, local police officers are the first ones on the scene in a suspected case, and it’s important that they know what to look for. Bureau agents who have worked a lot of these cases can offer their own expertise and experiences to state and local officers at regional training sessions.

And as more states pass their own anti-trafficking legislation (27 so far), additional human trafficking cases will be prosecuted locally, so it’s even more important that local police departments fully understand the crime.

The majority of victims in FBI human trafficking cases are women and young girls from Central American and Asian countries. They are primarily forced into the commercial sex industry and, like the young teen from Haiti, domestic servitude. Men and boys are typically victimized in the migrant farming, restaurant, and other service-related industries. However, there are an increasing number of young males being forced into the commercial sex industry as well.

But not all of the victims of human trafficking in the U.S. are foreign nationals; some are American citizens or residents. For example, an Anchorage man was found guilty in February of recruiting young women—mostly runaways from other parts of the country—to work for him as prostitutes. He controlled them by getting them addicted to crack cocaine, confining them to a small closet for days at a time, and beating them.

If you believe someone you know might be a victim, contact your local FBI office or the Department of Justice trafficking hotline at 1-888-428-7581.

Resources:
- FBI Human Trafficking webpage
- Human Trafficking: FBI Initiatives
- Human Trafficking: An Intelligence Report