Human trafficking: Modern day slavery

Slavery ended in America, or so we assume. We accept that slavery continues to exist around the world, but we seldom stop to think that this monster is quietly growing stronger here in the beacon of freedom. The term slavery reminds us of our darkest hour as a nation and makes us uncomfortable, so we prefer the term “human trafficking” in polite conversation. Regardless, victims of human trafficking are still slaves, and it is time that we, America, once again answer the call to end slavery.

Human trafficking is often thought of as a problem ‘over there’, in Cambodia, Thailand, Pakistan, India and Vietnam. But while we discuss the slavery problem overseas, a slave is being sold in that run-down massage parlor you pass every day on your way to work, or in the seedy hotel by the interstate… here in America.

Just as the old-world slave trade took advantage of market forces to scale their business, today, human traffickers use technology to scale theirs. Modern technology platforms host open slave markets that make it as easy for traffickers to sell women and children as it is for you to order a pizza. These technology platforms, like backpage.com, have expanded, outpacing legislation. Human trafficking is universally despised and an uncontroversial unifier, so then why does the problem continue to grow? Despite all the enthusiasm from politicians and pop stars,  few law enforcement resources have been allocated toward combating human trafficking.  There is no national strategy to fight human trafficking, nor a centralized or coordinated effort among law enforcement, enthusiasm is not translating into capability.

This year in New Mexico, a human trafficking ring kept women in dog crates when they were not selling access to their bodies (rape) in 15 minute increments. Traffickers worked under law enforcement’s radar for a decade, until they murdered one of their victims, leaving her body in a park that drew law enforcements attention. Most frustratingly, it was revealed that this trafficker was already on law enforcement’s radar in other states, but with no coordinated national effort, New Mexico’s Authorities had no information beyond their own.

Where the government has fallen short, DeliverFund has stepped in. Founded by former CIA Operatives and a Navy SEAL, DeliverFund facilitates the arrest and prosecution of human traffickers here in the United States.  In the first few months of operations, with nothing but our savings and a high level of expertise, we assisted law enforcement in bringing to justice 3 human traffickers. Now, over two years later, DeliverFund is operational in multiple cities across the US and we are running operations in tandem with law enforcement around the clock. Using state-of-the-art technology and intelligence on trafficking activities DeliverFund has provided to law enforcement a national network beyond their capabilities. The DeliverFund strategy borrows from widely used counterterrorism methodologies and has proven to be the most cost effective and scalable solution. It was DeliverFund intelligence that informed law enforcement and took down the trafficking ring in New Mexico, and DeliverFund resources that helped the victims receive the restoration they desperately needed.

DeliverFund takes a market-based approach; viewing trafficking markets as a shelf in a store.  There is limited space for products and because space is limited, product capacity and sales are limited.  If you remove products from the shelf (in this case trafficking victims) without also limiting the shelf space (arresting the trafficker), then you create room for new products and therefore make the problem worse by increasing the overall sales volume. It is essential to realize that victims of human trafficking are illicit commodities that are sold on black markets, so any effective strategy to combat trafficking must define the arrest and prosecution of the trafficker as the central goal. While it is possible to free victims of trafficking without also arresting the trafficker, arresting the trafficker almost always frees all the victims. The common denominator here is the trafficker, not the victim and as such should be the primary focus of any strategy.

Such as companies like Google do for their ad campaigns, data modeling traffickers is very effective. With few law enforcement officers allocated to fighting human trafficking every day, their efforts would be scalable with minimal resources and training.  Proper resource allocation should be a true reflection of our national priorities and expenditures should signal our resolve on this issue. The abolition of human trafficking is fundamentally aligned with the core values of America, and it is time we make it a national priority.  Until this happens not only in words, but in appropriate allocation of personnel and budgets dedicated to the fight, NGO’s, like DeliverFund will continue to stand in the gap and scale the efforts of the valiant law enforcement officers doing this work.

Nic Mckinley served as a country chief for a special unit within the CIA,  I founded DeliverFund, along with former colleagues from the CIA and Special Operations Forces. DeliverFund is a nonprofit, private intelligence firm that disrupts human trafficking markets by providing intelligence and specialized analytics about human trafficking activities to law enforcement.

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