The Kansas City Star asked top human trafficking experts across the country to identify ways to improve America’s anti-slavery efforts at home. Their responses were edited for length. Among them was Mark Bratman, ALERT Program Manager, International Rescue Committee, Phoenix:
“We need mandatory training for law enforcement officers at all levels. Officers need to understand the signs of trafficking, be able to differentiate it from smuggling, be aware of the laws against the crime and understand how agencies are available to assist victims. Some states include this in their anti-trafficking laws while others such as Arizona do not. Florida mandates 40 hours of training for law enforcement personnel.
“Government at all levels needs to make human trafficking a priority. The victims of modern-day slavery live within our borders and need our help. Despite the tremendous cost to the public and the impact on victims of this crime, trafficking is frequently a low priority law enforcement issue.
“We need increased Department of Justice funding for programs that identify and aid victims and apprehend traffickers. There have been gradual and minimal increases in support, but they have not kept pace with the needs of victims and law enforcement agencies. We also need increased Department of Health and Human Services funding for anti-trafficking outreach and awareness programs, which is currently insufficient. And there needs to be widespread use of January 11th, the National Day of Human Trafficking Awareness.
“Lastly, we need increased monitoring of how the U.S. responds to trafficking. The U.S. Department of State currently rates foreign countries on a three-tier system according to their response to human trafficking within their borders. Rating U.S. efforts would be very helpful to determine our own progress and actions.”