Human Trafficking

The mission of the Human Trafficking unit is to identify and rescue victims of human trafficking leading to the prosecution of human traffickers and to promote public awareness of human trafficking.

After several female Honduran human trafficking victims were rescued from the city’s North side bars in 2002 and the rescue of 79 undocumented aliens from within a tractor trailer in 2004, the Police Department felt the need to address the problem of human trafficking within our community.

History:

In the summer of 2005, 31 area Law Enforcement Agencies (LEA’s) and social service providers (NGO’s) formed the North Texas Anti-Trafficking Taskforce (NTATT) to develop working relationships leading to the increase of victim-centered rescue and restoration of human trafficking victims. Today, the NTATT has grown to approximately 40 members and serves the northern district of the Attorney General’s office (54 counties).

In December 2006, The Fort Worth Police Department was awarded a three year federal grant by the United States’ Department of Justice (DOJ) to develop an Anti-Trafficking Unit under the direction and control of the Special Operations Division (SOD). The Unit was designed to investigate possible human trafficking operations, rescue potential victims and promote public awareness of human trafficking supporting the activities of the NTATT. ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigations) agents were assigned to work in collaboration with the Unit; in addition, area NGO’s were identified forming a team of professionals with the knowledge and expertise to handle human trafficking cases. The Unit consists of a Police Officer and a civilian Program Coordinator.

Below is the area that the Anti-Trafficking Unit covers.

Duties:
The Investigator initiates undercover investigations and has the ability to pull the team together to ensure federal prosecution of the perpetrator and service provision to the victim through NTATT. The officer conducts regional in-service trainings to local LEA’s as well as training for new police recruits; serves as a liaison to the NTATT; collaborates with local LEA’s and federal LEA’s such as ICE, FBI, Department of Labor (DOL), and Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS); coordinates social, legal and health services for rescued victims through Mosaic Family Services, Inc. (and through DHHS and DOL); conducts public awareness campaigns in coordination with NTATT members; and works in tandem with the program coordinator to ensure the objectives and goals of the program are met.

The Program Coordinator supports the police officer in the management and oversight of the program including: serving as a liaison with key stakeholders; trains NGOs and other service providers to include those of medical and health, legal and social service providers; develops public awareness campaigns; provides semi-annual reports pertaining to grant management; supports the HOTLINE; supports the NTATT; and other program duties as assigned.

The Program Coordinator also oversees and coordinates specialized programs within the Anti-Trafficking Unit; develops media relations and publicity activities to foster involvement and heighten awareness for assigned public education or community programs; implements goals and objectives of the grant; and performs a variety of professional tasks in support of the Anti-Trafficking Unit.

What is trafficking in persons?
In a word, trafficking in persons is slavery.  It is the illegal trade in human beings through abduction, the use or threat of force, deception, fraud or sale for purposes of sexual exploitation or forced labor. It is a multinational, organized criminal industry that generates $9 billion a year in profit and is the 2nd most lucrative exploit in today’s world.

What is the difference between trafficking and smuggling?
Many people use trafficking and smuggling synonymously causing a lot of confusion. In reality, both crimes are very different. Below is a table that explains what these differences are:

Smuggling

  • Always a breach of a border (offense against a nation’s borders)
  • Always international
  • Relationship between the smuggler and the “client” ends once they have reached their destination
  • Can become trafficking if the client is forced to provide labor/services

Trafficking

  • Always a crime against a person
  • Can be international or intra-national (people can be enslaved regardless of whether they have crossed state or national lines)
  • The trafficker maintains control over the victim
  •  Involves some type of forced labor

Who are trafficking victims?
It is estimated that approximately 17,500 people trafficked into the United States each year. Most are women and children. Victims have been found in cities and rural areas across the United States. Many victims are forced to work in the sex trade; however, victims may be forced into various forms of work including: domestic servitude, factory work or migrant agricultural work. Victims are coming from Africa, Asia, Central and South America, and Eastern Europe.

Where does it occur?

  • Brothels
  • Domestic situations (housekeeping, nannies, servants)
  • Construction situations/day labor
  • Massage parlors
  • Restaurants
  • Bars/Strip Clubs
  • Agricultural situations

What is the scope of the problem?
A recent U.S. Department of State estimate indicates between 800,000 and 900,000 people are trafficked across international borders annually (this estimate does not include trafficking among Americans which is estimated to include approximately 300,000 citizens annually) (Department of State, 2003 Trafficking in Persons Report). Some estimates argue that there are 27 million slaves that exist in the world at this moment.
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Amritage recently stated that human trafficking is so profitable that “our intelligence community estimates it will outstrip the illicit trade in guns and narcotics within a decade.”

What is the federal law regarding trafficking?

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 (H.R. 3244) describes modern-day slavery or coerced labor as “severe forms of trafficking in persons.” In turn, “severe forms of trafficking in persons” is defined as 1) sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion or in which the person induced to perform such an act is under 18; or 2) the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud or coercion, for the purpose of subjecting that person to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage or slavery.

The TVPA of 2000 established that a human trafficking victim has the right to protection and public assistance in the United States. In 2003, the TVPA was reauthorized extending certain public and immigration benefits to victim’s family members; enabled victims to bring a civil suit against traffickers and encouraged state and local LEA’s to collaborate in the detection and investigation of human trafficking cases.

Is there a state law on trafficking?
Yes. The 78th Texas State Legislature passed H.B. 2096 (penal code 20A.02), which prohibits trafficking in humans. The law became effective September 1, 2003 establishing trafficking in persons as a criminal offense and defined what constituted trafficking in persons. This new offense is a second-degree felony, with an enhancement to a first-degree felony if a child younger than 14 years of age is involved, or any trafficking offense that results in the death of a trafficked person. The state law allows local LEA’s to respond to and investigate potential trafficking cases. Texas was one of the first states to develop a state anti-trafficking law and is currently one 25 states to have a law addressing human trafficking.

What are the signs that someone is being trafficked?

  • If you think that you have encountered a potential victim of trafficking look for the signs:
  • Evidence that the person is under someone else’s control
  • Evidence that the person cannot leave or quit his/her work
  • Evidence of trauma and/or abuse (rape, bruises, battery)
  • Evidence that the person is extremely fearful and/or depressed
  • The person may not speak English
  • The person may have recently been brought to the U.S. from Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa or Latin America
  • The person does not personally possess their immigration documents or identification.

How to help:
If you become suspicious that you know of a victim or are suspicious of a location, call the Unit hotline or Crime Stoppers. In addition, you may wish to submit an email report to the Unit. Please refer to the contact information below:

817-469-8477 Crime Stoppers
http://www.469tips.com
HumanTrafficking@fortworthgov.org

Links:
U.S. State Department:
http://www.state.gov/g/tip/

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
http://www.acf.hhs.gov/trafficking/

ICE
http://www.ice.gov/

FBI:
http://www.fbi.gov/

Department of Labor
http://www.dol.gov/

Department of Homeland Security
http://www.dhs.gov/index.shtm