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Purpose & Focus

A multidisciplinary anti-human trafficking task force is intended to support and encourage a collaborative effort among local and federal law enforcement, prosecutors, and victim service providers to work together to provide comprehensive services in order to discover and respond effectively to human trafficking. Local law enforcement and prosecutor agencies and victim service efforts are partnered with federal and state investigative, enforcement, and regulatory agencies and resources in pursuit of the most comprehensive response to the crime of human trafficking. This multidisciplinary task force response model (i.e., of agencies from various disciplines working together) is encouraged by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and is considered a best practice in the worldwide response to human trafficking.

In a broad context, task force efforts should pursue:

  • Identification of victims of trafficking and effective delivery of comprehensive services.
  • Identification of offenders through reactive and proactive investigations and prosecutions at both the local and federal levels when appropriate.
  • Training law enforcement and victim service personnel.
  • Raising awareness of both human trafficking and the response efforts within the community served by the task force.

Task forces may also incorporate a forum for other community organizations to become involved in the response to trafficking by offering additional services to victims or local, state, or federal political advocacy.

Like a formal organization, a task force should have a mission, a clearly defined purpose, goals, and objectives. Once these elements are articulated and established, the task force has the guidance it needs to determine the best partnerships to meet the commitments incorporated in those statements. While many groups and organizations skip this important step because it is hard work, this step is strongly encouraged; experiencing the process of creating a unified mission and a clearly defined purpose can go a long way toward getting everyone on the same page. Having a deeper and more accurate understanding of each member (both as individuals and as organizations) is a foundation of sustaining task force efforts.

Creating a coordinated and consistent response to trafficking is a major purpose of task forces. Task forces should create practices among the member organizations that will become institutionalized in the response to human trafficking, regardless of individual leadership or financial resources. Hence, a key responsibility of task force efforts should include the development of protocols, MOUs (see Section 3.1 on Memorandums of Understanding), and decisionmaking practices (see Section 3.1 on Leadership and Decisionmaking) to ensure the sustainability of the task force efforts in the future. This is vital as, over time, personnel involved in the task force’s efforts and the organizations responsible for key activities (i.e., the lead local law enforcement agency or lead victim service provider) may change.

Shared Understanding of all Aspects of Human Trafficking

Knowledge and understanding of all forms of human trafficking, the varied methods and venues of human trafficking, and the countless types of victims and perpetrators involved in this crime are key to combating human trafficking effectively.

The task force has a responsibility to avoid prioritizing one type of trafficking over another, as all victims have the right to protection from their traffickers and support in rebuilding their lives. Recognizing that skills vary when working with different types of trafficking, both law enforcement and service providers often have a comfort level in one or another, so identifying how all victims can be served is important. It is also important to ensure that all sides of the task force are sharing information about trends and potential victims. It is not uncommon for traffickers to be nondiscriminatory in their victimization, exploiting men, women, minors, immigrants, and U.S. citizens through sex and labor trafficking. Task forces should be just as vigilant in their commitment to nondiscriminatory response to this crime.

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