Assessing the Problem

Key Concept: State vs. Federal Law

State laws often differ from the federal definition of human trafficking. It is important for Task Force members to have a strong understanding of all the legal tools that could be employed to address trafficking. Click here for more information about state anti-trafficking laws

Task force conducted assessments may help task forces determine where human trafficking may be occurring.

Training to organizations who may encounter victims, such as law enforcement, service providers, and emergency room doctors and nurses, can also help to anecdotally determine frequency that providers are encountering potential victims of human trafficking.

When assessing the problem through existing data like the examples below, the following parameters should be considered. Consider other potential parameters and sources of data that may help to identify areas of vulnerability and exploitation.


Sources of Supporting Data

Magnitude of the area's susceptibility (socioeconomic, cultural, and demographic factors)


  • Census data on population growth in immigrant communities
  • Data on migration patterns and labor issues
  • Geographic indicators (e.g., highways, borders)
  • Data on presence of low-wage work within the area (e.g., manufacturing, agricultural, industrial, domestic worker, and hospitality settings)
  • Federal and state labor department data

Documented cases of human trafficking

Proximity to other federal Task Force groups

Historical crime indicators determined from preliminary assessment


  • Local, State and Tribal law enforcement intelligence on criminal group dynamics
  • Local, State and Tribal law enforcement intelligence on vice activities
  • Truancy arrest data
  • Visa fraud and other
  • Booking data from local jails and other correctional institutions
  • Data involving populations with Continued Presence, T or U visas

Presence of populations vulnerable to human trafficking

  • Data on runaway and homeless youth
  • NGO data on existing communities in the area, including immigrant populations and other groups
  • NGO data on providing services to victims of crime (domestic violence, sexual assault, complex trauma and local health departments or emergency rooms, legal providers, etc.)

Data Considerations

  • Arrest data may not reflect current or significant levels of trafficking. A lack of arrests should never be construed as evidence that human trafficking is not occurring in a jurisdiction.
  • Data collected from law enforcement entities and victim service organizations regarding human trafficking tips, potential victims, and cases often look very different from one another. Both forms of data can add up to a quality assessment.
  • Human trafficking can occur under conditions that go unnoticed and be significantly underreported and underserved, leading to gaps within some data sources. Analyze information with a broad view of the full scope of human trafficking in all its forms.
  • There may be linkages between trafficking operations and other criminal offenses. Examples include domestic servitude, assault and battery, intimate partner violence, truancy, money laundering and tax evasion, among other crimes.

Conducting a community meeting with community service providers and stakeholders during the assessment phase can assist in data collection and provide an opportunity to assess strengths and challenges related to investment, interest, and other potential resources. Invitees may include representatives from points of entry and identification into the services system. These may include providers from the following arenas:

  • Child/adult protection
  • Courts (state and/or federal)
  • Churches/Faith-Based organizations
  • Defense attorneys
  • Domestic violence/sexual assault
  • Immigrant-specific advocacy and services
  • Immigration services
  • Criminal and civil legal services
  • Emergency or low-income medical clinics
  • Youth services
  • Homeless services
  • Substance abuse treatment centers
  • Low-income mental health clinics
  • School social workers/counselors
  • Food banks
  • Social service agencies

A community meeting allows attendees to hear a clear message regarding the assessment goals, while also gaining feedback about the need for a task force. Survey information can be collected on:

  • The identification of human trafficking victims within each services arena.
  • Agency interest and investment in committing time and energy to the development of a task force.
  • Suggestions on how to engage absent organizations.
  • Outstanding questions on the federal and state definitions of this crime.

The meeting should explain the assessment plan and steps to move forward once the data are collected and analyzed. It might also be helpful to come prepared with ideas for how community partners can become involved in pursuing next steps, as enthusiasm and interest may increase in a community meeting atmosphere. Alternatively, key task force partners may choose to discuss in advance where the community groups can be most effective.

For additional information and tools, visit the Resource page for Section 2.3: Assessing the Problem