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Characteristics of Suspected Human Trafficking Incidents in the United States, 2008-2010

In the United States, the legal framework to prevent, track and prosecute cases involving the smuggling of human beings - often for the purposes of forced prostitution and labor - was established in the Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000. The first full report from the Department of Justice (DOJ) on human trafficking cases prosecuted within the United States was released in 2005 and reported on years 2001 to 2005. This report showed 555 suspected cases of human trafficking in the United States, 44% of which occurred in 2005.


Following the release of this report, Congress reauthorized the TVPA and added a requirement for a biennial report from the DOJ on all human trafficking cases. The first of these reports recorded more than1,200 suspected incidents of human trafficking for 2007 and 2008.


The findings of the 2011 DOJ report, "Characteristics of Suspected Human Trafficking Incidents, 2008-2010," include:

• Federal anti-trafficking task forces opened 2,515 suspected cases of human trafficking.

• 82% of suspected incidents were classified as sex trafficking; nearly half of these involved victims under the age of 18.

• Only about 1 in 10 incidents were classified as labor trafficking.

• Four-fifths of victims in confirmed sex trafficking incidents were identified as U.S. citizens (83%), while most confirmed labor trafficking victims were identified as undocumented immigrants (67%) or legal immigrants (28%).

• Only one-quarter of the confirmed victims of human trafficking received a so-called "T-visa," part of a federal program designed to aid victims of trafficking.


While the findings represent the government's best estimate, the authors caution that "the data described in this report reflect the information that was available to, and entered by, these state and local law enforcement agencies," and such data systems are still being established and are likely not recording all incidents.