Skip to main content Skip to main content

The National Prevention Toolkit

on Officer-Involved Domestic Violence and Human Trafficking

I: Crime Data

Facts for Law Enforcement:

What Officers Need to Know About Human Trafficking

1. Human trafficking is a crime.

In Florida, the specific law about human trafficking can be found in Florida Statute §787.06 which states that human trafficking occurs when any person:

  • knowingly, or in reckless disregard of the facts, engages in, attempts to engage in, or benefits financially from subjecting a person to human trafficking using coercion for labor services or sexual commercial activity. If the trafficked person is under 18, coercion doesn’t have to be shown.
  • Human trafficking is defined as “transporting, soliciting, recruiting, harboring, providing, enticing, maintaining, or obtaining another person for the purpose of exploitation of that person.” However, a person does not have to be physically transported for the crime of trafficking to occur.
  • Every trafficking crime in Florida is a felony.

Source: Department of State. (2017). Trafficking in Persons Report. Read More

2. Human trafficking affects a staggering number of people globally as well as domestically in the United States.

  • The International Labour Organization estimates that there are about 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally.
    • 26% of them are children.
    • 55% are women and girls.
  • In Florida in 2017, the national Human Trafficking Hotline received 878 calls and 329 cases reported. Since 2007, the hotline has received 9,372 calls and 2,662 cases from the state of Florida.
  • Nationally, during the fiscal year of 2016, the Human Trafficking Hotline received 51,167 calls from across the United States and U.S. territories.

Source: Polaris. (2016). The Facts. Read More

Source: Human Trafficking Hotline. (2017). Florida Statistics. Read More

3. Anyone can be trafficked but specific populations are more vulnerable to human trafficking.

  • In 2016, the top 5 risk factors present in cases of human trafficking included victims who were:
    • Runaway or homeless youth (These victims were especially vulnerable to sex trafficking);
    • Unable to find stable housing (These victims were both vulnerable to labor and sex trafficking);
    • New to the United States having recently migrated or relocated (These victims were vulnerable for both sex and labor trafficking);
    • Addicted to substances (These victims were especially vulnerable to sex trafficking); and
    • Experiencing mental health concerns (These victims were especially vulnerable to sex trafficking).

Source: Polaris. (2016). The Facts. Read More

4. Human Trafficking exists because it produces large illegal profits.

  • Human trafficking produces $150 billion a year for traffickers.
  • The International Labour Organization reported in 2014 the following breakdown of profits by sector:
    • Sex Trafficking: $99 billion from commercial sexual exploitation.
    • Labor Trafficking: $51 billion in construction, manufacturing, mining and utilities, agriculture, including forestry and fishing. Additionally, money is saved annually by private households that employ domestic workers under conditions of forced labor.

Source: Human Rights First. (2017). Human Trafficking by the Numbers. Read More

5. Victims experience significant physical and mental health effects.

  • Victims of human trafficking are at risk for significant health issues including symptoms of:
    • Lacerations, broken bones, and bruises from being beaten by traffickers;
    • Malnutrition from being starved;
    • Fatigue/exhaustion from being overworked and not given proper food or rest;
    • Sexually transmitted infections from forced unprotected sex;
    • Chronic stress from being moved around frequently, forced into isolation, and fear of being punished;
    • Depression and anxiety caused by the uncertainty of ever being freed from human trafficking;
    • Self-harm due to emotional distress;
    • Memory loss and dissociation caused from injury or developed as a defense mechanism to cope with the victimization; and
    • Suicidal ideation and feeling overwhelmed from the trauma of victimization.

Source: Ecclestone, D. (2013). Identifying victims of human trafficking. The Journal of the Health Visitors’ Association, 86(5), 40-42.

Source: Shandro, J., Chisolm-Straker, M., Duber, H. C., Findlay, S. L., Munoz, J., Schmitz, G., & … Wingkun, N. (2016). Human trafficking: A guide to identification and approach for the emergency physician. Annals of Emergency Medicine, 68(4), 501-508.

6. Several prominent organizations play an active role in combatting human trafficking.

  • The Florida Department of Children and Families receives reports on children and vulnerable adults…
    • The Florida Department of Children and Families receives reports of human trafficking on children and vulnerable adults* to the Florida Abuse Hotline and provides safe houses to children who are suspected to be victims of human trafficking.

      * The statutory definition of a vulnerable adult is a person 18 years of age or older whose ability to perform the normal activities of daily living or to provide for his or her own care or protection is impaired due to disability, brain damage, or the infirmities of aging.

    • The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigates cases of human trafficking under both its Civil Rights program and its Violent Crimes Against Children program.
    • The Department of Justice helps prosecute human traffickers. In 2016, the Department of Justice convicted a total of 439 human traffickers, up from 297 in 2015, and 184 in 2014.
    • The Department of Homeland security created The Blue Campaign which produces training materials and research on the issue of human trafficking.
    • The National Human Trafficking Hotline serves victims and survivors of human trafficking and the anti-trafficking community by providing resources and a toll-free hotline that is available 24/7 every day of the year. This hotline provides victims with access to services that can help them find support and reach safety.

Source: Human Rights First. (2017). Human Trafficking by the Numbers. Read More

Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation. (n.d.). Human Trafficking/Involuntary Servitude. Read More

Source: Florida Department of Children and Families. (n.d.). Human Trafficking. Read More

Source: Department of Homeland Security. (n.d.). About the Blue Campaign. Read More

Source: National Human Trafficking Hotline. (n.d.). Mission. Read More

7. Law enforcement officers must have training on the issue of human trafficking.

  • Researchers agree that the most effective prevention measures other than apprehension and prosecution of human traffickers include training of professionals about human trafficking.
  • Training of law enforcement officers leads to the apprehension and prosecution of traffickers.

Source: Samarasinghe, V. & Burton, B. (2007). Strategising prevention: A critical review of local initiatives to prevent female sex trafficking. Development in Practice, 17(1), 51-64. doi: 10.1080/09614520601092378

8. Human trafficking victims who are not U.S. citizens may qualify for temporary citizenship and immigration assistance.

  • In cases where victims are not US citizens, they can receive U.S. Health and Human Services Certification Letters that allow victims to receive benefits and services from government programs.
  • In 2015, 76% of people who received certification letters were victims of labor trafficking, 15% were victims of sex trafficking, and 9% were victims of both.
  • Victims may apply for T nonimmigrant status, also called a T Visa, which allows victims to remain in the U.S. for up to four years if removal would cause extreme hardship. During this time, victims can obtain employment and apply for Legal Permanent Residence.

Source: The National Center for Victims of Crime. (2017). 2017 NCVRW Resource Guide: Human Trafficking Fact Sheet Read More

Warning Signs

It is essential for law enforcement officers to understand the warning signs of human trafficking in order to assess the scene properly. In many cases, human trafficking is hidden in plain sight. As you respond to calls and work in the communities you serve, be aware of the warning signs of human trafficking. It is important to remember that not all of these signs will indicate human trafficking but it is critical for you to know them in order to recognize this serious crime.

Click each box below to explore warning signs that may indicate human trafficking.

Living Situation and Social Behavior

Victims of trafficking are often not allowed to have freedom of movement and may display abnormal social behaviors.

Pay attention to individuals who:

  • …Cannot move around freely
    • People can’t leave the premises
    • People aren’t allowed to go to the store or church
  • …Live with a large number of people who are not family
    • Unrelated people who are living in small houses or apartments
    • People living with others they work with
  • …Are always accompanied by a third party
    • Adults who can’t venture out by themselves
    • When victims are not kept isolated, some other person always speaks for them
    • When the victim does not speak English, a third party is always present and often speaks for the other person — answering questions before allowing the other to speak
  • …Always let another person speak for them
    • Victims often do not speak for themselves when questioned because they are afraid
    • Some other person answers for them
  • …Are unable to contact their friends or family
    • Victims of trafficking are often isolated from their family
    • They do not have telephones or computers to communicate with friends or family
    • They don’t have a way to contact or spend time with their friends

News Report

Work Conditions

Working conditions are often dangerous, inhumane, and place victims at great risk of being harmed or injured.

Pay attention to individuals who:

  • …Work excessively long and unusual hours without fair pay
    • People work long days (beyond eight hours) without breaks for compensation under minimum wage
  • …Were recruited to perform one job but forced to engage in an another job
    • Victims are often misled to think they were hired to do one job (ex. housekeeping) but end up being forced to do other work (ex. prostitution)
  • …Indicate they have been forced to perform sexual acts
    • Child victims of sex trafficking who were forced into prostitution or other sex acts for exchange of money
    • People who were threatened with punishment or harm if they did not perform certain sexual acts with another person
  • …Have a large number of condoms on their person
    • Victims have several condoms in a purse or bag that indicate the set number of people they must have sex with before returning to their trafficker

News Report

Source: Kowalski, D. (2016, June 27). 15-Year Sentence in Slavery, Human Trafficking Case in Ohio Involving Minors. Read More

Behavior or Physical Appearance

The behavior and physical presentation of human trafficking victims can provide law enforcement officers with important insight into what might be occurring. It is important to remember that not all victims are the same and may present themselves differently.

Pay attention to individuals who:

  • …Show signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture on their body
    • People have bruises or cut marks on their body
    • There are marks around their wrists from restraints
  • …Have brands or intentional scarring in deliberate patterns on their body
    • Victims often have these marks to show they are the property of a specific pimp
  • …Appear malnourished, sleep-deprived, or weak
    • Deprivation of food, water, sleep, or medical care, may cause deep dark circles under victim’s eyes
    • People are unable to properly support themselves while standing due to weakness
  • …Have tattoos of names, phrases or monetary symbols on their body
    • Tattoos of crowns, money bags, barcodes, and dollar signs signal that the victim is the property of a specific pimp
  • …Display paranoid behavior
    • Adults and children who will not allow someone to walk behind them
    • People who are constantly looking around at their surroundings
  • …Have Inconsistencies in their explanation of circumstances or events
    • People who provide different answers when asked the same question more than once
    • Victims blame an injury on something that could not have caused it due to fear of their trafficker
  • …Act fearful, depressed, submissive, uncooperative, or tense when speaking to law enforcement officers
    • People who refuse to answer basic questions from law enforcement, stating that they “can’t” or aren’t “allowed” to speak to them
  • …Own expensive or high-end goods, or is groomed (i.e. hair, nails) in a way in which they could not afford on their own
    • People who report having no employment or receive a small wage but wear expensive jewelry or designer items

News Report

Immigration Status

For victims who are not from the United States, traffickers may use victims’ immigration status to threaten and maintain control.

Pay attention to individuals who:

  • …Have been threatened with deportation or law enforcement action by someone who is not a government official or law enforcement officer
    • People who are threatened with deportation by their boss if they don’t do their work or give them money
  • …Do not have possession of their identification and travel documents
    • People who do not know where their documents are
    • People who state that someone else has their documents to prevent them from leaving or escaping
    • Victims who state that their bosses have their identification and travel documents

News Report

Sponsored by the

The Human Trafficking Project was supported by Award No. VF011 awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, Sponsored by the Institute for Family Violence Studies and the State of Florida.


If you have questions or comments, please click the button below to contact the Institute for Family Violence Studies.

Contact Us