Notice Clarifies Law Enforcement Use of Victim Assistance Funding

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In a huge win for survivors of all forms of human trafficking, a notice went out last week to all law enforcement grantees receiving funding under the Enhanced Collaborative Model to Combat Human Trafficking program. The Office of Victims of Crime (OVC) and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) fund the program, which brings together law enforcement, prosecutors, and victim service organizations under a task force model to address human trafficking regionally.

Law enforcement organizations who receive funding through the task force model will no longer be permitted to use BJA funding to execute the following tactics:

1.       Efforts that target the purchasers of commercial sex, colloquially known as “john stings”, fail to meet the requirements articulated in the authorizing statute if they do not involve the identification of one or more actual victims of human trafficking, prior to the operation or if they otherwise fail to involve a connection to one or more actual victims.

2.        Stings that target individuals engaged in prostitution for arrest as a means for identifying victims of trafficking.  Such efforts can compromise victim safety and recovery by failing to properly screen for sex trafficking victimization, and resulting in the arrest of victims of sex trafficking, and by imposing requirements on victims to participate in services. 

As an organization dedicated to a human rights-based approach, we applaud the efforts of both BJA and OVC. Anti-trafficking efforts focused on demand or those that criminalize victims as a means to identification are not effective strategies. These strategies do not hold traffickers accountable and may even increase harm to their victims. Our hope is that this notice will lead to increased collaboration and lead to a shared goal of developing a more comprehensive approach to fighting human trafficking.