In the first part of a new Department of Justice-funded study, we learned that state laws ratcheting up criminal penalties for human trafficking have no impact on the number of trafficking arrests or prosecutions in the state. The second part of the study looks at what happens to those who are arrested under state or federal anti-trafficking laws—a population that included 3,225 people from 2003 through 2012.
During this period, researchers noted "a strong upward trend in the number of arrests for human trafficking" in the U.S., with arrests for sex trafficking far outnumbering labor-trafficking arrests. The combined number of federal and state arrests for (all) human-trafficking offenses skyrocketed over this period, from 41 arrests in 2003 to 686 in 2012.
Labor-trafficking arrests actually rose and then dropped dramatically over these years, according to researchers, going from nine arrests in 2003 to a peak of 88 arrests in 2009, then down to just 24 by 2012. The number of sex-trafficking arrests, however, jumped from 17 in 2003 to 226 arrests in 2009 and then continued steadily upward, with 567 arrests for sex-trafficking offenses in 2012.