January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and the FBI’s efforts to combat trafficking—part of the overall U.S. government effort to end this scourge in all of its forms—will continue full steam ahead into 2014.
The Bureau’s human trafficking investigations focus on two kinds of victims: our Civil Rights Unit coordinates trafficking investigations involving both adult and juvenile foreign nationals who are forced or coerced into slave labor or sex trafficking, as well as adult victims of domestic sex trafficking; and our Violent Crimes against Children Section coordinates investigations involving domestic children under the age of 18 being sexually exploited for commercial gain and those involving child sex tourism.
More recently, we have formed partnerships with federal prosecutors and other federal, local, and state partners in investigating and prosecuting trafficking offenders and assisting trafficking victims in the Bakken oil field of North Dakota and Montana. One particular investigation in the Indian Country Bakken region involved more than 20 juvenile victims and witnesses and resulted in a 45-year sentence on human trafficking charges for one of the defendants.
One of our more recent successes against the sexual exploitation of minors was Operation Cross Country VII, a three-day nationwide enforcement effort which resulted in the rescue of more than 100 minors and the arrest of 150 pimps and other child exploiters. That operation, part of our broader Innocence Lost National Initiative, was carried out in partnership with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
To combat the exploitation of foreign nationals, the FBI works with our law enforcement partners at the Departments of Homeland Security, Labor, and State to go after traffickers who prey on the vulnerabilities of people seeking a better life. These victims are forced to work in poor, unsafe conditions where they are exploited for prostitution, domestic servitude, migrant farm labor, or restaurant and service industry jobs.
The FBI, however, goes beyond investigating those who exploit victims of trafficking. The Bureau’s Office for Victim Assistance (OVA) and victim specialists located throughout our field offices—along with victim/witness service providers from U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and/or non-governmental agencies—work with human trafficking victims to advise them of their rights and ensure they get the help they need to address their short-term and long-terms needs, including medical, mental health, and legal services; immigration relief; housing; employment; education; job training; and child care. And OVA’s child/adolescent forensic interviewers work with—and provide training to—agents and officers on crimes against children task forces involved in human trafficking and child exploitation cases.