Human Trafficking in the U.S.: Concrete Solutions for Better Data Collection

New York, March 6, 2013 – Better data collection on human trafficking, particularly on labor trafficking, would help service providers allocate limited resources and help prevent trafficking in the future, according to a white paper by the Immigrant Women & Children project (IWC) of the City Bar Justice Center.

The white paper, titled “Human Trafficking in the United States: Proposing Concrete Solutions to Better Data Collection,” by Suzanne Tomatore, Director of the IWC, and Laura Matthews-Jolly, the Justice Center’s Equal Justice Works Fellow assigned to the IWC, includes several recommendations for better data collection. These include the creation of central registries on human trafficking in each state, providing necessary training for city agencies and service providers, and passing more comprehensive human trafficking legislation.

“Improving data collection on trafficking is a particularly timely issue at the moment, as it is addressed in the Human Trafficking Reporting Act introduced by U.S. Senators Cornyn and Blumenthal last month,” said Tomatore.

Current national systems for gathering data are inadequate, according to the white paper. The federal government’s practice of collecting data from prosecutors and law enforcement “does not produce an accurate picture because not all cases are reported to law enforcement, taken seriously, or prosecuted”; and although the National Human Trafficking Resource Center’s hotline tracks calls from any source, including tips from individuals, service providers, lawyers and others, “this database does not track actual services rendered, prosecutions, arrests, or convictions,” the white paper states.

Rather, according to the white paper, each state should establish a state central registry that collects accurate data on human trafficking, as the states are best positioned to both create and oversee the implementation of such a registry. “If created, a state Central Registry on Human Trafficking should use the federal definition of human trafficking as defined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 for national consistency. State definitions of human trafficking vary significantly and some do not include labor trafficking. Social and legal service providers should be requested to report to the registry, and provisions must be made to protect confidentiality. Any agency that receives federal, state or local funding to provide services to survivors of human trafficking should be required to report,” states the white paper.

“In order to implement a state Central Registry on Human Trafficking,” the report continues, “relevant staff at government agencies should be trained on human trafficking in order to increase awareness of the issue, the relevant law, and to facilitate the data collection.” The white paper stresses that the trainings should be comprehensive and inclusive of both labor and sex trafficking.

Finally, the white paper offers suggestions for refining human trafficking laws already on the books to create a linkage with existing laws on child abuse: “We recommend legislation that includes classifying as an ‘abused child’ any child whose parent or legal guardian traffics them for labor or sex or knowingly permits them to be trafficked….This amendment will raise awareness among employees of child welfare agencies about the unique needs of these child victims.” The white paper further proposes that “any minor arrested for prostitution should be automatically referred to a child welfare agency with a presumption of confirmation as a trafficking victim. This legislative change will institutionalize automatic referrals in order to enable child crime victims to receive the child welfare services that they are entitled to receive. The child should be offered services rather than being criminally charged.”  Finally, the white paper recommends that “service providers, counselors, attorneys, and other stakeholders should be allowed to directly report to the Central Registries on Human Trafficking” rather than including only those cases referred directly from a law enforcement agency.

The white paper can be read here:

About the City Bar Justice Center

The City Bar Justice Center, the pro bono affiliate of the New York City Bar Association, increases access to justice by leveraging the resources of the New York City legal community. The Justice Center operates the city’s busiest legal hotline and annually provides direct legal representation, information and advocacy to over 20,000 poor and vulnerable New Yorkers in areas including foreclosure, bankruptcy, elderlaw, homelessness, veterans assistance, cancer advocacy and several immigration projects.