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How the Human Trafficking Institute utilizes a data-driven approach to empower prosecutors

Last updated Tuesday, May 23, 2023 17:03 ET

Non-profit organization, the Human Trafficking Institute (HTI), explains the importance of leveraging data in the fight against human trafficking.

Washington, DC , 05/23/2023 / SubmitMyPR /

According to the Global Estimates of Modern Slavery report, 27.6 million people were victims of human trafficking in 2021, some of whom exist within the United States. Under U.S. federal law, human trafficking is the exploitation of a person for labor, services, or commercial sex. While many people think human trafficking involves the kidnapping of women and forcing them into commercial sex work, human trafficking in the U.S. can occur in many different forms. Human trafficking includes forced labor and commercial child exploitation, and may involve victims of any gender or age.

These common misconceptions about human trafficking often hinder anti-trafficking efforts. The lack of understanding leads to victims going unidentified, resulting in a longer period of exploitation by their trafficker and delays victims’ access to resources and support that are provided through successful law enforcement and prosecutorial intervention. To solve this issue and improve the investigation and prosecution of trafficking cases, in 2015, former state and federal prosecutors Victor Boutros and John Cotton Richmond founded the Human Trafficking Institute.

HTI’s unique approach to combating trafficking is based on the power of data and strongly supported by a team with extensive legal experience and commitment to eradicating human trafficking at the source. Each year, HTI conducts an exhaustive review of every criminal human trafficking case filed in the federal court system, extracts and organizes data from those cases, and publishes key findings and emerging trends in an annual Federal Human Trafficking Report. The data published in the report helps dispel some of the common myths and misconceptions about trafficking, sheds light on trafficking schemes and techniques used by traffickers in the U.S., and guides law enforcement, prosecutors and practitioners in implementing best practices in the fight against human trafficking.

While there is no way to know the exact number of victims of trafficking in the U.S., information extracted from real trafficking cases gives us a better understanding of who victims of trafficking are, and how traffickers operate to exploit them.

The detailed findings in the Human Trafficking Institute’s report showcases the similarities and differences between human trafficking cases. This variety of information makes the report a helpful tool for understanding common indicators of human trafficking crimes and assists practitioners at prosecuting traffickers and protecting victims.

The data is also utilized to guide government agencies, and direct resources in areas of need. This not only supports current victims being trafficked, but also protects future individuals from being exploited. Human Trafficking Institute provides access to data subsites for viewers to filter the information to discover patterns in the data that can fuel their operations.

Recognizing the success of collaboration and the use of data, the Human Trafficking Institute uses their data and the support of specialized training and embedded experts to improve prosecution efforts in cases happening internationally. They work in partnership with international law enforcement to protect victims, prevent crimes, and prosecute traffickers in Uganda and Belize. Both regions experience trafficking in many forms and lack the public support and education to manage it. Therefore, HTI’s expertise has resulted in more equitable outcomes for survivors, an increase in tip identification, referral training, and more. The Human Trafficking Institute’s influence is allowing practitioners to recognize the need to understand human trafficking.

The 2022 Federal Human Trafficking Report will be released in June 2023, and will present key trends of 279 data points, extracted from the 2,929 cases within the FHTR database. Some of the information covered in the 2022 report will include data regarding defendants, victims, human trafficking schemes, investigations, charges, sentencing, appeals, international programs, and methodology. The Human Trafficking Institute works with survivor leaders to review the data and ensure the data is presented in a survivor-centered way.

The Federal Human Trafficking Report is the only exhaustive resource presenting data on all federal criminal human trafficking cases prosecuted in the United States. The Human Trafficking Institute will continue to push policy makers and practitioners to use data insights to shape the response to human trafficking.

“In today’s society, data shapes nearly every decision we make. If you are not using data to guide how you fight against human trafficking, you're missing out on an opportunity to combat trafficking more efficiently and effectively. At the Human Trafficking Institute, we examine real cases to diagnose how prosecution and protection has been successful, but also identify areas that could use improvement. By looking at the bigger picture with data, we can pinpoint patterns within these crimes and ultimately rectify misperceptions and stereotypes that can decrease human trafficking prosecution. The data in our Federal Human Trafficking Report paints a fantastic picture, which makes it a great way to simply express what these crimes look like and how we can direct resources to fight it,” says HTI’s Senior Legal Counsel, Lindsey Lane.

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