President Barack Obama on the last day of 2015 declared the month of January to be National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month 2016 and urged all Americans to take the necessary steps to end all forms of slavery.
“During National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, let us recognize the victims of trafficking, and let us resolve to build a future in which its perpetrators are brought to justice and no people are denied their inherent human rights of freedom and dignity,” the president said in his proclamation.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security took the president’s advice when on Jan. 27 it announced training for federal law enforcement officials to help them become better aware of the signs of human trafficking during the performance of their duties.
“To fight human trafficking in the United States, we are empowering federal law enforcement with the tools and resources to recognize and report this heinous crime,” said Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas in a statement. “I commend the leadership and all of the women and men of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers (FLETC) who had the insight and innovation to incorporate human trafficking training into their curriculum.”
FLETC Director Connie Patrick added, “We are committed to working with our law enforcement partners to keep our communities safe. Through these new training curriculum taught as part of our basic training academies, thousands of frontline federal law enforcement personnel will be able to recognize and help those who are victims of this heinous crime.”
DHS defines human trafficking as “a modern-day form of slavery involving the illegal trade of people for exploitation or commercial gain.” The department has a special program called the Blue Campaign that specifically deals with human trafficking. Along with training, the campaign works with other government and non-governmental agencies and provides public awareness while developing partnerships.
More than 800,000 persons are trafficked worldwide each year and 17,000 in the United States, according to statistics culled from the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Justice, and Free the Slaves.
Of the victims of trafficking in the U.S., 50 percent are children, and most come from the East Asia/Pacific region. A majority—46 percent—of those modern-day enslaved persons are forced into prostitution, 27 percent into domestic servitude, 10 percent into agriculture, 5 percent into factories, and 12 percent into miscellaneous situations.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation began including human trafficking in its Uniform Crime Reporting index in 2013. The FBI collects the information voluntarily from local law enforcement by state. For example, in the District of Columbia, the latest human trafficking case involved the indictment of D.C. residents Daraya Marshall, 35, and Jarnese Harris, 29, by a federal grand jury on Sept. 21, 2015. The pair was charged with engaging in sex trafficking of children for prostitution. Marshall was also charged with child sexual abuse and possession of child pornography.