Local Law Enforcement Officers’ Knowledge of Human Trafficking: Ability to Define, Identify, and Assist

Susan Mapp, Elizabethtown College
Emily Hornung, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Madeleine D’Almeida, Macedonia Family and Community Enrichment Center, Inc.
Jessica Juhnke


Local law enforcement officers have been identified as key figures in the fight against human trafficking, yet training has lagged, and their preparation to fulfill this role is unknown. Thus, 175 U.S. local law enforcement officers completed a survey assessing their ability to define human trafficking and to identify and assist its survivors. Approximately 17% of officers reported receiving training on human trafficking, while two thirds relied on mass media for information about human trafficking. Answers indicated confusion between human smuggling and human trafficking and a lack of knowledge of the elements of trafficking and who potential victims are. A substantial minority struggled to identify signs that a person might be a survivor of human trafficking and methods for intervention. Having received training and receiving information on trafficking from an official source significantly increased officers’ knowledge base. These results strongly support the need for formal training of local law enforcement officers and provision of knowledge from law enforcement sources in order to be able to effectively combat human trafficking.