Worldwide, an estimated 20.9 million people are victims of sex trafficking, forced labor, and domestic servitude, collectively known as human trafficking. It is estimated that human trafficking generates billions of dollars in illegal profits annually, making it second only to drug trafficking as the most profitable form of transnational crime. Human trafficking doesn’t only happen abroad; it occurs throughout the U.S., including in urban, suburban, and rural areas. Importantly, human trafficking victims can be any age, race, gender, or nationality, and they may come from any socioeconomic group. The crime of human trafficking is unique in that it is largely hidden; in fact, victims rarely come forward to seek help because of language barriers, fear of the traffickers, fear of law enforcement, and/or lack of awareness and acknowledgement of victim status.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) seeks to advance the mission and capabilities of the Department to protect basic human liberties: the right to freedom and the right to be free from exploitation and enslavement. S&T is incorporating social science research into the Department’s counter-human trafficking approach through two foundational projects: (1) the Counter-human Trafficking and Modern Slavery Foundational Effort and (2) the Human Trafficking System Analysis and Technology Roadmap. The data collected and the needs identified through these two projects will be used to develop a strategy that will directly enable, inform, and assist operational partners, decision makers, and policy makers to combat human trafficking.
“Applying social science-based research to the Department’s overall counter-human trafficking strategy will at once ensure our efforts are effective, both immediately and in the long-term, and also are collaborative and efficient. As we identify and understand current and future efforts within the Department and outside it, we can work in unison to maximize the utility of the resources we have at hand, avoiding the duplication of efforts and leveraging current capabilities to make greater headway in combatting human trafficking at home and abroad,” said S&T Program Manager Jennifer Foley.