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Forming a Task Force

It is impossible for any single agency or organization to respond comprehensively to the problem of human trafficking. Traffickers range from opportunistic individuals to sophisticated criminal organizations, with multijurisdictional activity. The resulting victimization is extreme and involves diverse populations with a host of needs. The response to human trafficking is most effective, coordinated, and efficient through multidisciplinary and collaborative problem-solving efforts.

The power of a successful anti-human trafficking collaborative effort can transform the limitations of a singular agency or organization into a strong, strategic multidisciplinary team with substantially improved capacity to impact the problem.

Smart Practice: Creating a coordinated and consistent response to trafficking is a major purpose of task forces.

In the multidisciplinary anti-human trafficking effort, the task force purpose is to have a strategic impact upon a complex problem. To be effective, the task force must plan and develop coordinated responses to the victims and to the criminal justice process, responses that may be outside of traditional law enforcement task force protocols or victim service programs. Although challenging, it is imperative to think outside the box when developing such a response, always with an eye toward victim-centeredness and effective progress toward prosecution.

Needs of victims of human trafficking may include:

  • Case management
  • Child-specific (dependent) assistance
  • Civil legal award
  • Clothing
  • Crime victims’ rights and benefits
  • Criminal justice assistance
  • Crisis intervention
  • Cultural community/support
  • Dental care (emergency and long-term)
  • Disability assistance
  • Education/GED classes
  • English as a Second Language (ESL) classes
  • Financial literacy
  • Family contact/reunification
  • Food
  • Housing
  • Identification documents
  • Illiteracy or limited literacy assistance
  • Job preparation and placement
  • Legal representation (immigration, criminal, civil)
  • Medical care (emergency and long-term)
  • Mental health care (emergency and long-term)
  • Public assistance benefits
  • Religious and spiritual assistance
  • Repatriation assistance
  • Safety and safety planning
  • Housing (emergency, transitional, permanent)
  • Sexual assault trauma services
  • Substance abuse services
  • Translation and interpretation
  • Transportation
  • Victim advocacy

Needs of the criminal justice process include:

  • Appropriate authority
  • Aggressive prosecution
  • Collaboration
  • Cooperation
  • Corroboration
  • Cross-jurisdictional cooperation
  • Effective equipment
  • Effective laws
  • Evidence
  • Expert witnesses
  • Informed judiciary
  • Interagency cooperation
  • Operational intelligence
  • Useful international laws
  • Suspect identification
  • Training (ongoing to address turnover and more advanced topics)
  • Understanding of victim-centered investigations
  • Victim identification
  • Victim support services
  • Witness support for nonvictims

Attempts to respond to these needs through uncoordinated and unrelated responses of individual agencies and organizations are often met with frustration, inefficiency, increased suffering to the victim, and freedom for the perpetrator. Responding to the victims and conducting the criminal investigation are not mutually exclusive. Effective task force collaboration anticipates these needs and becomes a unified resource for local anti-trafficking efforts. To this end, task forces should be transparent about what services and populations they are able to serve.  

Several states create task forces through legislation. You can find out which states do so by looking at  Polaris Project’s State Ratings Map. States with legislatively mandated task forces often prescribe the membership, duties, and other characteristics in the law enacting the task force. Please note, however, that a state-mandated task force should not be used in lieu of a local task force. In many cases, state-mandated task forces are more administrative in nature and may not deliver the same results as locally-focused multidisciplinary collaborations. 

Collaboration is Essential

Effective collaboration is more easily conceptualized than accomplished; nevertheless, it is essential. Task forces that work through initial or longstanding collaboration challenges find it is a difficult but worthwhile endeavor. Everyone wants to make a greater impact on the problem. Task forces with effective collaboration find partners to be the greatest strength in fighting this crime and supporting its victims, and a valued resource rather than an impediment.


For additional information and tools, visit the Resource page for Chapter 2: Forming A Task Force.