Prostitution, renamed? Police perceptions of human trafficking

Jennifer C. Gibbs, Emily R. Strohacker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Often, human trafficking is only thought of as sex trafficking, and many perceive it as a new term for prostitution; yet, human trafficking includes much more. Police understanding of human trafficking is especially important as police are first responders and serve as gatekeepers to service access for victims or punishment for offenders. Thus, how police define human trafficking and whether they recognize it in their area is an important area of inquiry. Surveying 495 police officers serving at a large agency in the northeastern USA, this study explored police conceptualizations of human trafficking, finding that most officers define human trafficking as sex trafficking. Further, logistic regression analyses show that myths surrounding human trafficking (especially that human trafficking is prostitution) affect officers’ perceptions of whether human trafficking is a problem in their area. Additionally, officer characteristics, such as training, tenure, type of area served, and experience with human trafficking cases, affect officers’ perceptions of human trafficking. These and other findings are discussed in light of the literature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberpaad093
JournalPolicing (Oxford)
StatePublished - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Law

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