Organization Uses Grant Funding to Target Human Trafficking Advertisements

The Justice Research and Statistics Association (JRSA), in partnership with the Human Trafficking Intelligence Project and funded by a grant from the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), recently conducted research that revealed four indicators that strongly predict sex trafficking when present in online escort advertisements.

These indicators can be used to target ads more likely to lead to a victim when investigated.

The four predictive indicators of sex trafficking are:

  1. Obscured phone number
  2. Provider ethnicity listed
  3. “Trustworthy” language
  4. Language suggesting youth

This research was conducted to help law enforcement better focus their limited investigative resources to find more victims and generate better leads.

You can read the research policy brief, view law enforcement training guide, and see the online seminar here.

The researchers analyzed over 1600 escort ads from investigated cases and web scraper archives. They also spoke with trafficking survivors, non-trafficked sex workers, and investigators to examine which language, photo, and emoji indicators were more likely to be associated with sex trafficking vs. non-trafficked sex work.

In an online seminar, Kris Lugo-Graulich of JRSA stated, “the Internet and social media are prime venues for soliciting customers for commercial sex. Law enforcement and prosecutors have long used online escort-ads to identify victims and investigate cases, but little research has been done so far on how to identify or interpret indicators of risk.” This research aimed to provide empirical evidence that can help.

In addition to the four predictive indicators, several other indicators commonly used to generate leads were found not to be associated with trafficking. This is important for improving investigations.

Source: JRSA, a national non-profit organization, is a resource center for researchers, analysts, journalists, and criminal justice practitioners.

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