There are several advantages of the task force model:
Opportunities to Develop Collaborative Relationships
Initially, task forces create an environment where agencies involved in local anti-trafficking efforts, or seeking to become involved, can learn the roles and capacities of the other agencies. This is the first step in creating a strategic, coordinated, and collaborative relationship among law enforcement, victim service providers, other key stakeholders, and the community being served.
Once organized at this basic level, task force members can begin to discuss how to best respond in a coordinated manner. For example, a local law enforcement officer who discovers a single human trafficking victim during the course of a domestic violence investigation will need different levels and types of support than those needed when several foreign national victims of commercial sex trafficking are discovered during the course of a pre-planned brothel investigation. In the same respect, victims of human trafficking are routinely identified by victim service providers and other non-law enforcement personnel; they, too, need to know which agencies to contact and, most importantly, the individual within that organization who is familiar with human trafficking and the principles of a multidisciplinary response.
Once roles are discussed, it immediately becomes apparent that no single organization has the capacity or ability to handle all the aspects of responding to human trafficking. Each organization has abilities and limitations. For example, one victim service provider may offer housing for female victims of human trafficking but lack the capacity to house men or families. One victim service provider may be able to provide broad social services and case management, but not legal services related to immigration status or family law matters, both routine needs of trafficking victims. While a local law enforcement agency has immediate response capabilities, it may lack investigative resources that require coordination with federal law enforcement agencies. Frequently, task forces create a directory of all member organizations, including service providers so that everyone on the task force can easily identify the capacity of the other members. A task force can be similar to a tool box: you have what you need when you need it, all in one place.
More Effective Response to Incidents of Human Trafficking
Additional Information: Research by Northeastern University’s Institute on Race and Justice indicates that jurisdictions with active multidisciplinary anti-human trafficking task forces are more likely to identify human trafficking victims and achieve successful prosecution of offenders.
As task force members (both individuals and organizations) learn about the capacities and limitations of one another, and gain experience working together, authentic collaboration on everyone’s part makes responding to incidents of human trafficking not only easier, but also more successful. A supported victim is more likely to be a cooperative witness, be more open to accepting services from other task force partners, and ultimately be willing and interested in working on the case together.
A victim receiving services from a victim service provider may feel more comfortable cooperating with investigators and prosecutors on a criminal action. Human trafficking cases routinely take far longer to prosecute than many other crime types, and it will be the responsibility of both the victim service provider and the law enforcement agency to provide an environment and feeling of security for the victims throughout the process. Also, some victims of human trafficking (particularly victims of sex trafficking or undocumented foreign national victims) may have a contentious history with law enforcement, and a victim service provider who offers support and encouragement to victims can assist with the building of trust between the victim and law enforcement. Ultimately, regardless of whether a survivor chooses to engage with law enforcement or not, services should be provided based on need.
In the same manner, victim service providers can benefit from their collaborative law enforcement colleagues. Victims of trafficking are often identified by victim service providers and, in some instances, the connection between the victim and the trafficker has long since been broken and there is little chance of a successful law enforcement investigation. Still, the victim’s access to some services and benefits (e.g., Continued Presence or a T visa) can be accelerated if the victim is interviewed by law enforcement as a way to confirm their status as a victim of trafficking. Investigators who conduct these types of interviews—while knowing they will likely not lead to a criminal prosecution—will be truly valued by the service provider. Most importantly, interviews will greatly assist the victim. This type of collaboration also helps to build additional layers of trust between task force members.
Greater Agency Buy-in or Support of Anti-trafficking Efforts
Another advantage of the task force model is that with collaborative success, task force partners can leverage their success to gain greater agency buy-in or support of anti-trafficking efforts. For example, the chief of a local police department may offer more resources toward anti-trafficking operations when she/he learns that victim service providers are willing to assist identified victims, or take up the cause of promoting a regional anti-trafficking response protocol along with other chiefs of police.
Successful task force collaboration can also assist both victim service providers and law enforcement in the application and obtaining of grants. For example, under a current Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA)/Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) grant program, the Enhanced Collaborative Model Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force program, existing collaborations between law enforcement and victim service providers must be documented in the grant application.
Joint Training Opportunities
Task force members can also assist each other when conducting training on human trafficking for both professionals and the public. Working together, task force partners can model how they respond to trafficking and can promote all the partners' capabilities in a coordinated response. (Learn more in Section 3.1 about Training Committees).
Promote a Unified Message on Human Trafficking to Community
Another advantage of the task force model is the ability of member organizations to promote a consistent and unified message on human trafficking to the community, along with advocating for needed changes in laws or funding related to the response to human trafficking. Human trafficking is a popular social justice issue within the United States, yet most people’s knowledge of human trafficking is based on popular movies that may not accurately portray the various subtypes, settings and complexity, and response to trafficking. Films can help raise awareness but can also reinforce stereotypes. In the same manner, politicians at the local, state, and national levels desire (and require) professional and consistent input from those directly involved in assisting victims or investigating cases of human trafficking.
For additional information and tools, visit the Resource page for Chapter 2: Forming A Task Force