Few studies have examined Internet sex trafficking through the lens of law enforcement working these cases. The purpose of this research is to explore the dynamic nature of policing sex trafficking in the online environment.
The qualitative data was drawn from interviews with police investigators and detectives who work sex trafficking cases in two urban cities in Texas. The suggest that the nature of sex trafficking has ificantly evolved since the advent of social media, including the strategies for recruitment of workers and clients, making enforcement easier with some aspects and much more difficult with others.
Additionally, law enforcement interviewed believe domestic sex trafficking is a much greater issue in their metropolitan area than international sex trafficking. In the United States, sex trafficking constituted 71 percent of reported human trafficking incidents in U. Department of Defense, Inthe U. Department of Justice prosecuted human trafficking cases, with of those prosecutions involved sex trafficking U.
Department of State, Kara equivocates sex trafficking to modern-day slavery with three steps in common: acquisition, movement, and exploitation. Inthe prevalence of sex trafficking made headline news when high-profile billionaire hedge fund manager, Jeffrey Epstein, was arrested and charged with running an international sex trafficking ring. Kelly was arrested and charged with thirteen counts of federal sex trafficking.
These high-profile arrests point to increased law enforcement attention and activity toward sex trafficking. Policing of sex trafficking has gained momentum in the past two decades. Since then, federal efforts to police human trafficking has grown substantially, with several agencies dedicated to reporting services as well as their task forces.
The Department of Homeland Security, for example, launched the Blue Campaign to raise awareness and provide a reporting platform, as well as training for law enforcement agencies. Minors are especially vulnerable to this, prompting many more local law enforcement agencies to create dedicated Internet Crimes Against Children ICAC and sex trafficking units.
SinceD. These partnerships came to fruition in when the D. Today, the problem is accelerated by the Internet, where traffickers use online resources, such as communications and social media platforms, to entice potential victims, conduct their exploitations, and share as well as hide their criminal activities. While large social media sites, such as Facebook, actively monitor illegal activities, some sites facilitate prostitution and sex trafficking. While law enforcement and the government argued that a section on erotic services would increase the risk to participants and increase prostitution while making law enforcement more difficult, researchers found that Craigslist reduced the female victim homicide rates by 5.
The blatant and open advertising, complete with explicit descriptions and photos, drew the attention and scrutiny of lawmakers and law enforcement. In the site was seized and shut down by the Department of Justice after its C. However, the closure of Back largely unaffected online prostitution and sex trafficking as traffickers immediately began advertising on other sites.
Initial findings in this research suggests, however, that the closure of Back did not result in aggressive law enforcement action, but instead made enforcement more difficult with the proliferation of new, foreign-based sites with no legal obligations to cooperate with investigators that operate essentially with impunity. This research explores the dynamic nature of policing Internet sex trafficking and the difficulties presented to law enforcement in the post-Back era with data drawn from interviews with local police investigators ased to Internet sex crimes.
The data reveal that the complex and dynamic nature of the online environment has changed the nature of sex trafficking. This presents difficult challenges for investigators, who must apply strong investigative skills and contend with issues such as rapidly changing technology, dealing with tech companies, and working in partnerships with a variety of stakeholders. Furthermore, they must navigate a more complex legal landscape with jurisdictional issues that comes with the online environment and streams of digital evidence.
The culmination of these challenges makes investigations lengthy and seemingly inefficient compared with traditional crimes. Understanding these challenges will allow for public understanding of why investigations are so time and resource-intensive, will help to develop laws and policies to allow for more flexibility, support, and resources while underscoring the critical role these specialized investigators play.
Several topics are explored in depth. First, the nature of online victimization shows the profound change created by the Internet and social media, making law enforcement both easier and more difficult. Second, investigators explain the misconceptions of Internet sex trafficking that can affect departmental, public, and political support of policing efforts. Finally, we discuss the formation of collaborative law enforcement networks, applying the nodal governance theoretical framework as a model for overcoming the new complexities of the Internet environment.
The TVPA recognizes any minor under 18 years of age as victims of sex trafficking regardless of force, fraud, or coercion on the grounds of age alone.
Mitchell, Finkelhor, and Wolak examined youth arrested for prostitution and found that 57 percent of these youth were exploited by businesses, such as massage parlors, escort services, gangs, internet sites, and pimps or a boyfriend. Another 31 percent worked for themselves, while another 12 percent exchanged money for sex with family or known persons. Due to their vulnerability, minors are at increased risk of sex trafficking.
The prevalence rates are unknown due to the difficulty of finding victims and methodological limitations in research see Fedina et al. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has found that the average victim is 15 years of age. Additionally, they have higher rates of unplanned pregnancy, health issues including mental health, and sexually transmitted diseases S. In a study conducted by Fedina, Williamson, and Perduethe researchers sampled current or former domestic child sex-trafficking victims and found that emotional and sexual abuse, rape, running away from home strongest predictorfamily members in sex work, and friends purchasing sex work were all ificantly associated with these victims.
Varma, Gillespie, McCracken, and Greenbaum compared youth with and without histories of commercial sexual exploitation and found that youth with exploitation were more likely to run away, experience substance abuse, and be involved with child welfare services or the juvenile justice system.
There are ways that states are combatting this exploitation of youth. Each state has variations of these laws, but they center on protecting youth from prosecution for prostitution and providing specialized services to these victims Polaris Project, These multidisciplinary teams work together to disseminate information to the victim about the possible resources available to them Doyle, Many aspects of policing sex trafficking have been written about in the past two decades and highlight several limitations.
First, policing data is limited due to the conceptualization of sex trafficking.
Definitional issues stem from multiple definitions put forth by multiple organizations and difficulties distinguishing sex trafficking from other crimes with similar elements. In the U. Examinations of police investigative methods against sex trafficking show challenges from identifying sex trafficking due to its inherent nature.
Using interview data with law enforcement and closed human trafficking cases, Farrell and Pfeffer note that sex trafficking is often underreported, from both the public and victims themselves, many of whom fear deportation and that police would not be of real assistance. Furthermore, they found police investigators without specialized training often misidentify trafficking victims as prostitutes. Moreover, investigations are often hampered by language barriers, cultural and structural impediments, weak relationships with victim service providers who do not trust bringing certain cases to police, and having no clear prosecutorial direction and guidance.
Researchers have also explored aspects of victimization.
Villacampa and Torres employed qualitative interviews with criminal justice professionals, legal actors, and victim service providers in Europe to assess the identification of human trafficking victims. They found professionals often identified trafficking with prostitution as the most common form, in contrast to victim services, which were mostly unaware of its sexually exploitive nature.
The researchers identified the lack of training by N. Moreover, they found that victims often failed to self-identify as victims by failing to see the exploitive nature of debt and not realizing their involvement in crime. This study further explores the changing dynamics of victimization using similar qualitative methods, while adding the element of the online environment.
This information has evolved from supply-driven predatory practices of exploiters seeking out potential victims to a demand-driven model where victims are lured and exploited. Moreover, social media has created an ideal marketplace to facilitate sex trafficking transactions and fundamentally change the nature of victimization from one that is demand-driven by exploiters looking for victims to supply-driven by victims hegemonically seeking out exploiters.
Several philosophical and practical problems make policing sex trafficking difficult. Farrell and Pfeffer discuss police cultural and structural barriers that hinder investigations.
They identify the lack of department-wide definitions of human trafficking that fail to prioritize and therefore allocate resources, requiring detectives to reframe the crime as more easily understood prostitution. Moreover, they found applying traditional investigative techniques and a reactive manner, such as surveillance and waiting for victims to come forth, was ineffective. This inability to effectively deal with human and sex trafficking often resulted in local agencies handing off cases to federal agencies, such as I.
Farrell and Pfeffer also identified a structural issue where trained detectives relied on regular beat officers for initial contact of the victim, who tended to misreport and misclassify the offense as local prostitution before routing the case to a vice unit.
Farrell and Cronin discussed departmental challenges in enforcing new legislation that make for easier classification and prosecution of sex trafficking. They assert the static nature of policing caused by their complex bureaucratic structure that is rooted in culture and routines, is slow to adapt to new forms of crime and associated legal reform.
In assessing the impact of the TVPA, which reclassified many acts of prostitution to sex trafficking on enforcement, they found a steep decline in prostitution arrests and enforcement activity. However, some departments in their sample increased arrests, pointing in part to organizational factors such as agency size, structure, and complexity.
In recent decades, the model for law enforcement in dealing with complex crimes, such as sex trafficking, has been collaborating with other security stakeholders and forming task forces. To some researchers, police have undergone a paradigm shift to deal with an increasingly complex society and corresponding complexity in crime. This societal change is driven by advancements in information and communications technology impacting all aspects of society. Policing modern society also requires a paradigm shift with police and police officers. According to the nodal governance theoretical framework, police in the information society adapt in two ways: 1 forming collaborative networks; and 2 reorienting themselves as one stakeholder in security networks.
Police in the information age acknowledge that they are no longer adequate in handling all aspects of security and must form collaborations with other security stakeholders, such as government, private security, corporations, N. More importantly, police are considered just one node in the network.
This model has been applied to assess policing cyberspace Nhan, The Internet is an ideal environment to conduct sex trafficking. Online advertising sites, such as Craigslist and Back, facilitated trafficking for several reasons.
First, online advertising is nearly ubiquitous. According to the Internet tracking site, Alexa, Craigslist currently ranks as the 27th in the U. Second, there is no financial cost to advertise on these sites. It presents a new dimension of solicitation and sex crimes, including increasing the accessibility of victims.
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