There is still a great deal left to be understood about how widespread human trafficking is and how it works. Polaris holds the largest known data set on human trafficking in North America, which grew out of more than a decade of operating the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline. Internally, we scour the data for patterns and other information that form the underpinning of our pilot programs, policy decisions and long-term strategies. And we make findings from the data set available to others in research, academia and the anti-trafficking movement because the more we all know, the faster we can end it.
Here’s what we know about human trafficking in North America
By connecting victims and survivors to supports and services for more than a decade, Polaris has built a data set that allows us to find patterns and use those patterns to dismantle systems that make human trafficking possible. In doing so, we can turn individual pain into collective power.
Every year, Polaris publishes data based on calls, text messages, webforms, emails and webchats with the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline. This data, while limited and self-selecting, offers important insights into patterns of sex and labor trafficking in North America.
The Counter-Trafficking Data Collaborative is a joint project of Polaris, the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration and other partners, which houses the first-ever global data repository on human trafficking. This information provides a much-needed evidence base for programs and policies designed to disrupt and eradicate human trafficking around the world.
In 2017, Polaris took a closer look at nearly a decade of data from the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline to break down those broad categories even further. What we found is that human trafficking in the United States consists of 25 different types, each with its own distinctive business model. The details are vital. To end human trafficking in the United States, we first have to truly understand how it affects real people, in real time, and who can and should play a role in ending it.
Polaris’s data makes very clear that migration – both internal and to another country, legally and otherwise – is a key vulnerability for human trafficking because migrants so often fall outside of the full legal protections of their countries of origin, countries of transit, and countries of destination. Those victimized by human traffickers in the United States are disproportionately from Latin America – most frequently from Mexico. With that in mind, Polaris has undertaken research to better map the conditions that allow for labor trafficking in Mexico and facilitate the trafficking of Mexican and other foreign nationals to the United States through legal, temporary work visas.
From pimps who need to cover their hotel bills with credit cards to large scale-agriculture operations who pay shady recruiters through payroll systems, there is not a single human trafficking operation in this day and age that can exist outside the legitimate financial system. And that creates opportunity. Polaris is working with some of the nation’s financial industry leaders, building tools to help uncover money laundering and human trafficking.
The National Survivor Study is a scientifically rigorous research project developed in full partnership with survivors of human trafficking to gain insights that we can use to push for real and impactful change.