Tackling the Traffickers
Director of Public Security at SAS Public Security Joanne Taylor looks at the role of technology in tackling the world's fastest growing criminal activity.
Media Coverage: Publication: Policing Today
Human trafficking is believed to be the fastest-growing criminal activity in the world, involving millions of people annually and generating an annual turnover of billions of pounds. The United Nations Crime-Fighting office reported recently that 2.4 million people across the globe are victims of human trafficking at any one time - and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime describes it as a global enterprise worth in the region of $32 billion.
The vast majority of human trafficking in the UK - and much of Western Europe - is victim-driven (where the victims pay to be brought into a country illegally). The other significant sub-set is slavery where an individual is captured and forced into trafficking against their will. In 2011, the Metropolitan Police estimated that there were at least 10,000 slaves in the UK alone. The actual figure may be even higher as there is common misconception that only foreign nationals are trafficked, and only into the UK.
The UK judicial system takes this growing problem increasingly seriously and assigns many resources to directly deal with it. Every UK police force is tackling the results of human trafficking on a day-to-day basis, which is a time-consuming and resource intensive process. The main issue they face, however, is that, in contrast to counter-terrorism, there is no centrally coordinated effort to tackle the problem holistically.
So, how can crime fighting agencies be more proactive in gathering the necessary information and intelligence to investigate these crimes, arrest the guilty and bring them to justice? Ultimately what’s required is a more strategic inter-agency approach.
The first and most important priority is capturing relevant data in the most efficient and effective way possible. Crime-fighting and investigative agencies need to identify how they are going to acquire the data, hold it, share it and work with other agencies to bring information across borders.
In tackling these challenges, agencies will need to have access to systems that can help deliver information-sharing, information-gathering and intelligence management. Then, and only then, can they combine the data required to understand the nature of the trafficking and to ensure relevant data held by different agencies is widely available to all as actionable intelligence.
By combining data on known trafficking activities agencies will be able to utilise modelling and predictive analytics capabilities to understand the nature of the organised criminals driving this industry, identify the key players and track the activities of suspects against that, making decisions about which individuals they target as a direct consequence.
Such is the complexity and scale of people trafficking networks, taking a holistic approach is critical here. Often, arresting one individual or uncovering one location involved in a trafficking network will be just one small part of the process. People trafficking is big business and to crack the problem, investigative agencies will need to understand the entire interconnected network of people. Ultimately, a joined-up approach to intelligence will be vital if this serious and rapidly-growing criminal activity is to be tackled effectively.
This article also appeared in Police Professional.