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Is the US Able to Combat Human Trafficking?

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Exclusive: Is the US Able to Combat Human Trafficking?
Jim Kouri, CPP

Author: Jim Kouri, CPP
Source: The Family Security Foundation, Inc.
Date: August 6, 2007

The ability to eliminate human trafficking is critical to homeland security and human life. While Congress passes laws to protect against this crime, FSM Contributing Editor Jim Kouri reveals insufficient funding is holding us back from making real progress. Who is responsible?

Is the US Able to Combat Human Trafficking?

By Jim Kouri, CPP

Human trafficking is a transnational crime whose victims include men, women, and children and may involve violations of labor, immigration, antislavery, and other criminal laws.

To ensure punishment of traffickers and protection of victims, Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), which is subject to reauthorization in 2007. The Departments of Justice (DOJ) and Homeland Security (DHS) lead federal investigations and prosecutions of trafficking crimes.

The Government Accountability Office reviewed strategies, reports, and other agency documents; analyzed trafficking data; and interviewed agency officials and task force members.

Since the enactment of the TVPA in 2000, federal agencies have investigated allegations of trafficking crimes, leading to 139 prosecutions; provided training and implemented state and local initiatives to support investigations and prosecutions; and established organizational structures, agency-level goals, plans, or strategies.

For example, agencies have trained new and current personnel on investigating and prosecuting trafficking in persons crimes through their agency training academies and centers, provided Web-based training, and developed and disseminated guidance on case pursuance. Agencies have also sponsored outreach and training to state and local law enforcement, nongovernmental organizations, and the general public through a toll-free complaint line, newsletters, national conferences, and model legislation.

Finally, some agencies have established special units or plans for carrying out their anti-trafficking duties. Federal agencies have coordinated across agencies on investigations and prosecutions of trafficking crimes on a case-by-case basis, determined by individual case needs, and established relationships among law enforcement officials across agencies.

For example, several federal agencies worked together to resolve a landmark trafficking case involving over 250 victims. However, DOJ and DHS officials have identified the need to advance and expand U.S. efforts to combat trafficking through more collaborative and proactive strategies to identify trafficking victims.

Prior GAO work on interagency collaboration has shown that a strategic framework that includes, among other things, a common outcome, mutually reinforcing strategies, and compatible polices and procedures to operate across agency boundaries can help enhance and sustain collaboration among federal agencies dealing with issues that are national in scope and cross agency jurisdictions.

To support U.S. efforts to investigate trafficking in persons, the Bureau of Justice Assistance has awarded grants of up to $450,000 to establish 42 state and local human trafficking law enforcement task forces.

BJA has funded the development of a train-the-trainer curriculum and a national conference on human trafficking and taken further steps to respond to task force technical assistance needs.

Nevertheless, task force members from the seven task forces we contacted and DOJ officials identified continued and additional assistance needs. BJA does not have a technical assistance plan for its human trafficking task force grant program.

Prior GAO work has shown the need for agencies that administer grants or funding to state and local entities to implement a plan to focus technical assistance on areas of greatest need. BJA officials said they were preparing a plan to provide additional and proactive technical assistance to the task forces, but as of June 2007, had not received the necessary approvals.

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Family Security Matters contributing editor Jim Kouri, CPP is currently vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and a staff writer for the New Media Alliance ( He�s former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by
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Note -- The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, views, and/or philosophy of The Family Security Foundation, Inc.

Other Articles by Jim Kouri, CPP...
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Homeland Security Dept. Facing Manpower Shortages
Justice Department Unveils Measures to Enhance National Security Oversight
Counterterrorism: US Aids Colombia with Protection of Oil Pipelines
Task Force Arrests 22 Gang Members in "Operation Valley Star"

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