The National Academies

NCHRP 20-121 [Active]

State DOT Contributions to the Study, Investigation, and Interdiction of Human Trafficking

  Project Data
Funds: $299,883
Staff Responsibility: Leslie C. Harwood
Research Agency: Project Performance Corporation
Principal Investigator: Ms. Chris M.S. Baglin
Effective Date: 5/31/2018
Completion Date: 3/30/2020

Human trafficking can be defined as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for labor or services through force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, commercial sex acts, or slavery. Within the United States, human traffickers are using national, state, and local transportation infrastructure, systems, and modes. 
State DOT staff and technology resources have the potential to assist in efforts to combat human trafficking, aid victims, and support critical decisionmaking. There are several actions that state DOT personnel can take to enhance awareness and use of their resources to supply valuable information that supports anti-human-trafficking efforts. These actions include the following: knowing the signs of human trafficking; collecting actionable information; utilizing existing anti-human-trafficking resources provided by the DHS Blue Campaign, Polaris, and Prajwala; cooperating with requests from internal and external law enforcement for information that can be derived from transportation agency assets or personnel; and investment in, and use of, helpful technologies such as smart video archiving, license plate readers, and toll tag records.  Also, through more strategic efforts to support anti-human-trafficking efforts, state DOTs can support law enforcement in the gathering of and access to relevant information, thereby supporting successful investigations, interdiction, and decisionmaking. A transportation workforce trained to observe and report suspicious behaviors of traffickers and their victims complement “if you see something, say something” campaigns, enhancing community resilience. Opportunities to observe and report include flaggers at work zones, maintenance people at rest areas, toll collectors, or any worker while on their commute or off duty.
Many transportation professionals are not familiar with the problem of human trafficking; and, while some have awareness, their knowledge may be limited to anecdotal experiences. It can be challenging to rally the resources needed to educate employees on the scope of the problem and on the specific steps they can take -- through planning, programming, and daily operations -- to respond appropriately. Research is needed to inform state DOTs interested in developing structured responses to human trafficking that are appropriate to their state and in supporting their employees who may be on the front lines of this criminal activity. 
The objectives of this research are (1) to identify how state DOTs can assist and/or enhance the existing efforts in combatting human trafficking and (2) to develop guidance and a suite of tools that support effective training, policy, and collaboration practices related to mitigating human trafficking.
The target audiences of this research include, but are not limited to:
  • Leadership within state DOTs
  • State DOT field staff
  • Contractors
  • Industry stakeholders
  • Collaborative partners
Accomplishment of the project objectives will require at least the following tasks.
Phase I
Task 1. Examine current national and international definitions and practices for disrupting the demand side and supply chains of human trafficking, emphasizing the role of transportation. Include linkages to victim assistance resources and appropriate responses, reflecting the perspective and experiences of survivors and victims as relates to utilization of transportation.
Task 2. Examine current mechanisms, practices, data collection efforts, and policies that state DOTs are using to help mitigate human trafficking. Identify practices that are potentially applicable at state DOTs and entities under state control or influence (e.g., fueling stations at travel plazas, employee training, and reporting mechanisms in the private sector). Identify how state DOTs are currently aiding the following activities and conduct a gap analysis to identify opportunities to expand their involvement and further enhance anti-human-trafficking efforts at DOTs across the country:
  • Identifying and reporting victims and traffickers
  • Tracking victims and traffickers in collaboration with enforcement agencies
  • Supporting existing efforts of law enforcement, nonprofits, and other anti-human-trafficking stakeholders
In formulating the research approach and recommended actions, consider potential negative impacts of activities that might harm victims (e.g., re-traumatization of victims by interviewing them) or hinder investigations.
Task 3Identify opportunities for how human trafficking counter-efforts can be incorporated at the programmatic level into existing resources and practices available to state DOTs such as, but not limited to:
  • Relevant standards
  • Training programs
  • Data collection and analysis
  • Standard operating procedures
  • Other widely used guidance (e.g., checklists in standards documents, procurements)
Recognizing constraints on DOT resources, identify anticipated benefits of addressing human trafficking through state DOTs.
Task 4Identify additional research projects and planning activities for potential development in Phase II. Include items that could be completed within the project resources and those that will require additional resources.
Task 5. Prepare an interim report on the findings and conclusions of Tasks 1 through 4. The interim report shall also contain a detailed work plan for Phase II. The research plan shall provide a 2-month period for review and approval of the interim report. An interim meeting of the project panel to discuss the report with the research agency will be required. NCHRP will be responsible for the cost of panel member travel and will provide the meeting facility. For the interim meeting, provide a PowerPoint presentation suitable, upon revision, for posting on the project website. The research agency shall not begin work on the remaining tasks without NCHRP approval.
Phase II
Task 6Carry out the approved Phase II work plan.
Task 7. Provide a standalone technical memorandum titled “Implementation of Research Findings and Products.”
Task 8Final deliverables for the project should include (a) a final report summarizing the work, (b) a one-page executive summary, (c) an updated interim meeting PowerPoint presentation and speaker notes for posting on the project website, (d) a revised Task 7 implementation technical memorandum as a standalone document, and (e) standalone guidance and a suite of tools including (but not limited to):
  • Long-range planning guidance.
  • A discussion paper for chief executives that summarizes why and how transportation has a unique opportunity and role to play in mitigating human trafficking regarding/related to infrastructure, cross-sector collaboration, and leveraging the knowledge of staff who may regularly encounter victims and traffickers. The discussion paper should include a description of the harm to victims and the negative impacts to society that are enabled by revenue that is derived from this heinous criminal activity.
  • Awareness and training materials that cover all aspects of human trafficking for different stakeholders associated with DOTs, for example:
    • Training modules and presentations,
    • Handout materials for inclusion in existing in-service training, and
    • Materials that can be integrated into emergency management training and special event management training.
Note: Following receipt of the draft final deliverables, the remaining 3 months shall be for NCHRP review and comment and for research agency preparation of the final deliverables.
Useful resources for this project include:
  1. Polaris www.polarisproject.org  
  2. Prajwala www.prajwalaindia.com
  3. TRB Workshop 836 (at the 95th TRB Annual Meeting): Expanding the Scope of Resiliency: Human Trafficking, and Hazardous Materials Concerns http://amonline.trb.org/836-1.3001752?qr=1
  4. DHS Blue Campaign https://www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign/indicators-human-trafficking
  5. Lessons Learned from Super Bowl Preparations: Preventing International Human Trafficking at Major Sporting Events. Hearing before the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human rights, and International Organizations of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. House of Representatives, One Hundred Thirteenth Congress, Second Session, January 27, 2014. https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-113hhrg86465/html/CHRG-113hhrg86465.htm
  6. US Department of Justice (USDOJ). Human Trafficking https://www.justice.gov/humantrafficking
  7. Iowa DOT http://www.news.iowadot.gov/newsandinfo/2015/10/iowa-motor-vehicle-enforcement-officers-and-truckers-against-trafficking-to-hold-first-ever-quad-sta.html
  8. Minnesota DOT Human trafficking awareness http://www.dot.state.mn.us/humantraffickingawareness/  
  9. Delaware Department of Transportation https://news.delaware.gov/2014/07/07/delaware-fights-human-trafficking/
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine reports (below) can be downloaded for free from the National Academies Press website at www.nap.edu
  1. Confronting Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors in the United States: A Guide for the Legal Sector (BCYF, CLAJ) Sponsor: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP/USDOJ)
  2. Confronting Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors in the United States: A Guide for the Health Care Sector (BCYF, CLAJ) Sponsor: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP/USDOJ)
  3. Confronting Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors in the United States: A Guide for Providers of Victim and Support Services (BCYF, CLAJ) Sponsor: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP/USDOJ)
 13.   Confronting Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking of Minors in the United States (BCYF, CLAJ) Sponsor: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP/USDOJ)
PROJECT STATUS (December 2020):
Final report publication pending.

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