Human trafficking cases are time consuming and difficult, and they pose a challenge to prosecutors, investigators, and victim service providers alike. Successful criminal investigations and prosecutions flow from positive partnerships and collaboration among criminal investigators and prosecutors, a myriad of service providers (depending on the victim’s needs), and civil and immigration attorneys (depending on the victim’s national status).
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Human traffickers work across jurisdictions; therefore, task forces need to be positioned to do so as well. Navigating complex jurisdictional dynamics often involves a multitude of investigators and prosecutors at the federal, state, and local levels who may not have worked together before or who have a complicated past history. Successful human trafficking investigations depend on overcoming such barriers to create practical and functional cooperation.
Law enforcement task force members need to be mindful that human trafficking investigations are purposely victim centered because the victim supplies the most critical evidence—personal testimony—if there is a trial. However, victims must be stabilized both mentally and physically and must feel safe before investigators can begin indepth interviews and service providers and civil attorneys can provide essential support. Productive interviews are more likely when a victim feels safe and is ready to talk, but creating that environment of trust can take time. In some instances, investigators may need to conduct early and brief victim interviews to obtain facts that are key to seeking, obtaining, and executing a search warrant for evidence that could be destroyed during any delays.
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