Human Sex Trafficking

Training People and Law Enforcement to Fight this Dark Cybercrime

The internet has opened a portal for predators to target easy prey for human trafficking on a global scale. This cybercrime is tantamount to slavery and it is growing every day. The Equality Now Fact sheet indicates that sex trafficking makes about $99 billion each year and the U.S. Department of Defense shows that characterized human trafficking is the world’s fastest-growing crime.  The problem is that like many other areas of the internet, few are bringing attention to these crimes and neither individuals nor law enforcement has had sufficient training to try to combat it. Meanwhile, these crimes continue to lure and abduct/kidnap their victims.

The predators involved in these dark cybercrimes entice the vulnerable online and over a period of months gain their confidence and trust. Eventually there is an in-person meeting and there is an abduction. There is a dire need to establish a red flag warning for women and young girls using the internet for social conversations. The predator relies on their true identity being hidden and will take on a personae of friend or confidante. Circumventing this stage, combined with sufficient law enforcements education and response are the first steps to stopping these heinous crimes. To move progress forward in the fight against human trafficking, we also need to understand that a majority of those taken are women and young girls.

Education begins with the understanding that cybersecurity includes the security of one’s personal self. Human trafficking begins with the belief of women or young girls that they are communicating with a new friend online. Instituting levels of suspicion in the online community requires having those that are experts in both the topic of human trafficking and cybersecurity visit, educate, and talk to schools and women’s organizations.

There is often a major disconnect of trust between the community and the police departments. This requires the creation of a special force of law enforcement that are trained on the psychological and emotional aspects of those that fall prey to online stranger communication. These individuals need to represent the police while also acting the part of those that the public can feel comfortable reporting to.

The South African government has made small steps of progress with a National Action Plan and the creation of provincial teams that will mobilize the expertise required on a multidisciplinary level to address cases as they are brought forward. However, this is only the beginning of the process and a lot more is required if we are to reverse the horrors of human trafficking.

The financial resources need to be set in place so that investigations can be implemented that are intelligence-driven, proactive, and court-driven. Coordinating with various cybercrime divisions as well as online activities that share the characteristics of potential human trafficking needs to be the norm and not the exception.

The Da Vinci Foundation is diligently working with organizations, the community, and educational professionals to elevate the topic of human trafficking to all aspects of our society. The experience gained and evidence gathered suggests that social service providers, like the South African Police Service and judiciary, should be better trained in anti-trafficking laws, should use a more victim-centered approach, and should have the ability to recognize women in sensitive situations.  We are focused on the development of a more progressive, empowering and gender-sensitive training strategy and plan that would not only ensure focused cyber training takes place, but would further be extrapolated to create increased awareness amongst government officials, and to ensure that their responsibilities and accountability are understood in terms of the new cybercrimes and cyber security bill.”

– Sharon Knowles