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Human trafficking crimes a challenge for law enforcement

Media Release

21 December 2007

Under-reporting and the psychological impact on victims of human trafficking are just two of the challenges facing law enforcement in detecting and prosecuting trafficking crimes, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC).

"Human trafficking is not a single, static event", said AIC Director Dr Toni Makkai. "It can involve multiple offenders and crime sites across several jurisdictions, and therefore requires the cooperation of officials across international borders."

"Cases of human trafficking can also involve complex and subtle elements, such as the victim's apparent unwillingness to report their experience or to cooperate with law enforcement. This can reflect a number of factors, including fear of imprisonment or deportation, lack of trust in authorities, and debt or financial pressures."

Drawing on international experience, the Law enforcement responses to trafficking in persons: challenges and emerging good practice report identifies some of the practical challenges likely to confront law enforcement in trying to detect, investigate and prosecute cases of trafficking as well as some of the strategies being used to address the challenges.

According to the report, the good practice strategies being developed and used by law enforcement agencies internationally to improve their response to trafficking, include:

  • victim-centred approaches which support victims as witnesses, resulting in more reliable testimony;
  • building cooperative relationships between police and the NGOs involved in supporting trafficking victims;
  • setting up specialist trafficking units while also ensuring local law enforcement is trained in clear and practical procedures for responding to trafficking situations; and
  • drawing on their full range of powers and resources (such as search and seizure, telephone intercepts, surveillance, financial investigations and the use of forensics) to build a broad evidence base that does not rely solely on victims' testimony.

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