November 15, 2023

Security Guard HUB

Detect, Deter, Observe, and Report

Can the Security Sector Prevent Human Trafficking?

6 min read
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When people suspect a human trafficking case, the first they call are the police or human rights groups. But can the security personnel on the ground prevent human trafficking? Many private businesses or small franchises have some form of security or loss prevention personnel. Those personnel usually have a certain level of training in understanding customer behavior, and a quick line to law enforcement.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce identified private businesses as part of the solution to identify potential human trafficking situations. Groups like A21 also train and certify workplaces to connect law enforcement to potential human trafficking cases. Security personnel are an important part of the solution.

Facts About Human Trafficking

In 2017 alone, the U.S. Department of Labor declared over 1,100,000 security personnel in the United States. According to the Polaris Project, which manages the National Human Trafficking Hotline, there were 10,949 cases in 2018, 25% more than the 8,773 cases in 2017. From those cases, 23,078 survivors of human trafficking were identified. The number of security personnel on the ground can increase the general awareness of such incidents, especially if they receive training.

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The top 3 kinds of human trafficking were sex trafficking (the highest), sex and labor trafficking, and labor trafficking alone. These three types are over 40% of the cases. Labor trafficking is higher for adult victims, but sex trafficking is higher for younger and minor victims.

Is there a profile of human trafficking victims?

Anyone, anywhere, can become a victim of human trafficking. However, based on confirmed cases, we can narrow down the most likely profile.

First, more than half of the confirmed cases are adult victims. A very high percentage of trafficked victims were female, and the top two ethnicities were Latino (the highest) and Asian (the second-highest).

While we should not fixate on this data, it helps us identify the age, gender, and ethnicity groups that are at the highest risk of human trafficking. Having a general profile in mind helps us prevent human trafficking.

How do traffickers recruit victims?

For victims of sex trafficking, the “recruiting officer” is most often their current intimate partner. Second to those are family members. The trust between the victim and the “recruiting officer” is high, so the victim also takes a longer time to recognize something is wrong and to respond to their situation.

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Victims of labor trafficking, are often lured by job postings or advertisements. This is particularly true if the victim has recently moved or relocated, has recently lost a job, or is in a situation where they rarely manage to hold down a job. The economic instability makes them particularly vulnerable to offers like this.

How Can the Security Sector Prevent Human Trafficking?

Security guards work across every sector of society, from private security and investigation for businesses, to hospitals, schools, the hospitality industry, and so on. This presence, and their training, makes them an important resource in the fight against human trafficking.

Practical Tips for Security Guards

There is a delicate balance between zeal and caution in preventing human trafficking. Any situation can escalate beyond what the security guard intended. How can security guards identify potential victims of human trafficking, and what are some practical steps they can take when encountering a potential situation?

How can you tell if someone is a possible victim of human trafficking?

Just because one or more of these signs are present does not necessarily mean the person is a victim. However, take note of what you see. Even if you don’t actively alert law enforcement, the awareness will 1) limit the traffickers’ movements, and 2) allow you to give valuable information if law enforcement tracks a trafficking case to the business you work at.

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  • Avoids eye contact, especially with uniformed security personnel (including yourself)
  • Doesn’t seem to know which town or city they are in
  • Has a repetitive scripted reply for casual questions (where are you going, where are you coming from, what are you doing around here) with no solid details
  • Has someone around who answers any questions or attempts at conversation for them
  • Doesn’t seem to have personal possessions (bag, wallet, phone)
  • Looks malnourished or has poor dental health (evidence that they move around a lot)
  • Has bruises or shows other signs of abuse (marks on the neck or wrists)
  • Is with an older person they seem afraid of but refer to as their boyfriend
  • Excitedly shares about a new job with great perks they are traveling to

Other places to sweep: the parking lot or drive-through area. Some hide the trafficked persons in their vehicles.

What are some practical ways you can offer help to possible victims?

Usually, if the victim is already aware they are being trafficked, something else is keeping them quiet. Fear of their traffickers, or fear of not being believed if they speak up. Isolation, threats, and physical abuse are all techniques used by traffickers to keep their victims silent. How can your workplace offer them practical help?

  • Place phone numbers in prominent places that they can call, in multiple languages if possible. While they might not have personal possessions at the moment, they might be able to take it down somehow and use it when they gain access to a phone.
  • Place code words inside the bathroom stalls or in prominent places, for both labor and sex traffickingIf they mention the word to an employee, the employee will call law enforcement. Even if the trafficker and his victim get away, law enforcement can gain access to the CCTV and identify the persons who entered the store.
  • Call the hotline even when you’re not 100% sure. If you can’t shake the feeling that the person needs help, it is better to call and run what you saw by a professional responder than to do nothing at all.

Loss prevention and legislation is tricky enough when it comes to shoplifters. It gets ten times harder for human trafficking, because the charge is much more serious. However, if you create a path for a possible victim to reach out for help on their own, or you reach out on their behalf, that’s already half the battle.

Who you gonna call?

National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888

United States

The hotline is managed and responded to by the Polaris Project, which has a team working in multiple states to respond to calls. According to their records, each victim contacts the hotline 2-3 times. This may be because of their limited access to phones, and because traffickers can move their victims around often. In that case, by helping possible victims alert you to their situation, you also help law enforcement and any institutions helping them to track victims even if they are being moved around.

What Are Your State’s Laws on Human Trafficking?

While the definitions may vary by state, the National Conference on State Legislatures has clearly defined the commonalities of what constitutes human trafficking in the United States. You can review their site on specific laws and legislations about human trafficking in your state. While the emphasis is still on law enforcement, tracking and tracing movement of traffickers and their victims is a crucial step to prevent human trafficking. This is where the private security sector comes in.

There is still a lot of work to be done, but you are part of the force on the ground that can prevent human trafficking. By increasing awareness and proactively supporting organizations against human trafficking, you can help limit trafficker movements and lessen the profitability of the criminal ring.