Brant M. Horio and Kyle M. Ballard. Modeling a Victim-Centered Approach for Detection of Human Trafficking Victims within Migration Flows, Policy and Complex Systems. Volume 3, Number 2, Fall 2017: Washington, D.C. doi: 10.18278/jpcs.3.1.9
Human trafficking—the use of force, fraud, or coercion to compel individuals into sex trafficking or forced labor—is a global problem. It is challenging to determine the magnitude of this “hidden crime” because the detection of victims is largely dependent on establishing a sufficient level of trust between them and authorities that encourages victims to self-identify. The U.S. government promotes a victimcentered approach for the detection of human trafficking, the implementation of which is becoming widely accepted as the most effective means to detect trafficking victims, especially in scenarios of increased vulnerability such as the European migration crisis. Using the migration crisis and the networks among migrant populations as context, this paper presents human trafficking as a dynamic process whereby a victim’s willingness to self-identify adapts over time both spatially (e.g., due to influence from nearby neighbors) and through networks (e.g., familial, country of origin, traveling parties). We employ an agent-based model for exploring the victim-centered approach and its effectiveness for detecting human trafficking victims in an abstract representation of migrant flows. Our sensitivity analysis over a range of initial cooperation levels among migrants finds a tipping point exists for when the victim-centered approach will achieve positive results. It also suggests minimum system conditions for the propagation and persistence of migrants’ strategic intention to self-identify. We also discuss our findings with respect to tradeoff considerations for balancing immigration policy objectives, with the need for allowing sufficient time for positive cooperation among the migrant population to develop.