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Best Practices for NGO Investigations Into Human Trafficking

Introduction

The investigation of human trafficking – and the rescue of victims – is a complex undertaking with many moving parts.

Investigations of human traffickers, and the subsequent rescue of victims, is a very complex undertaking. Unlike more traditional criminal investigations, there is rarely ‘one suspect’, ‘one victim’, or ‘one location’.

Instead, the crime of human trafficking takes place in a shady world that consists of multiple entities. Multiple perpetrators who work for multiple criminal organizations. Multiple victims who are trafficked by multiple pimps in multiple locations. These variables can make human trafficking a hidden crime that is difficult to investigate. The cost of not investigating, however, is the loss of lives, the loss of freedom, and the loss of innocence.

One particularly complicating feature of human trafficking investigations is the relationships between victims and traffickers. Traffickers initially use force, fraud, or coercion to lure their victims and force them into labor or commercial sexual exploitation. They seek out victims who may be susceptible to their lies for a variety of reasons including economic hardship, psychological or emotional instability, or other socio-economic disadvantages.

Victims of human trafficking are often helpless to call out for help, making the crime even more difficult to investigate.

Once lured by the traffickers, victims rarely have an opportunity to speak out or call for help. Language barriers, fear of their attackers, lack of a social safety net, and a general feeling of helplessness overwhelm the victims. Thus, the crime becomes difficult to investigate.

But investigate we must. The cost of turning our backs on this global problem is simply too high.

This overview will focus on some best practices for managing investigations into human trafficking, the capture of perpetrators, and the rescue of victims. A haphazard approach to these sensitive and complex investigations is likely to cause more harm than good, and these best practices are designed to help your organization maximize your productivity and safely rescue more victims.

Best Practice #1 – Stay Organized

The first best practice we need to discuss is ‘Staying Organized’. What might start off as a Tip that a young girl is being sold for sex in a local hotel may quickly grow in scope to include multiple victims, multiple locations, multiple pimps, and multiple abusers. These criminal enterprises thrive in the dark and, like cockroaches, simply scatter and disappear once light is shone. The practice of staying organized helps ensure that no intelligence or evidence falls through the cracks, giving the traffickers time to scatter and hide.

Using investigation case management software, such as that provided by Case Closed Software™, helps human trafficking investigators plan and stay organized.

Use investigation case management software. There are simply too many ‘moving parts’ within a human trafficking enterprise to attempt to stay organized without a purpose-built database. Spreadsheets, notes, cloud folders… these are all yesterday’s tools that cannot adequately manage today’s investigations.

With your case management software, track every tip that you receive. Some tips may be stronger than others. Some may lead to full-blown investigations, and some may not. In any case, track and store each tip that you receive as you never, ever know when information from those tips may become relevant to your ongoing investigations.

Triage every tip you can. Spend a moment to search your case management system to determine if anything about a tip relates to any current or past investigation. You can’t do this with paper files or spreadsheets. Perform some online research on the subject(s) of the tips to gauge how reliable the information might be. If the tip initially lacks the actionable or credible information to assign resources, keep the data in the case management system for future use. If the tip does contain actionable and credible information, use the case management system to prepare an actual Investigative Case and assign resources immediately.

A key to a successful investigation and rescue is tracking all of the actions being taken and sharing that information with the appropriate team members.

Importantly, in terms of Staying Organized, use your case management process to track each action being taken on the investigation. Did someone perform some Open Source Intelligence on the suspected location? Log that information electronically so that it does not fall through the cracks.

Has an agent visited the suspected location to determine if there are likely victims there? Log that into the system. Store any videos or photographs that the investigator made and attach them right to that case.

Log and maintain notes and related files on every action taken on your human trafficking cases. Make them safe, secure, and easy to access by other team members.

Organization is the KEY to any criminal investigation, and even more so for investigations into human trafficking.

Best Practice #2 – Securely Share Information in Real-Time

Investigations into human trafficking and victim rescues are complex and cannot occur in a vacuum. Much like the criminal enterprises themselves have multiple roles such as kidnappers, transporters, handlers, and pimps for example, so must your investigation team have specialized roles. Your undercover ‘john’ cannot be the same as your public-facing advocate, for example.

Sharing information across jurisdictions, cultures, and languages can be difficult. Use case management software from Case Closed Software™ to facilitate understanding.

The key to ensuring that everyone involved in the investigation is successful is sharing information. In an environment where traffickers are always on the lookout for potential risks to their operation, it’s of utmost importance that your operational team all be on the same page so that no missteps occur.

This type of alerting and information sharing cannot be done by text messages or word-of-mouth. It must occur within a fool-proof system of secure information sharing where there is no room for ambiguity. Lives depend upon it.

All of the actions and intelligence that is gathered during an investigation should be securely stored in your case management system. The moment a member of the investigation team submits new information, all other permitted team members should have secure, online access to the new information whether they are notes, videos, photographs or other file types. The removal of ambiguity or misinterpretation is key to ensuring that all team members are aware of the case status at all times.

Human trafficking is a global problem. Language barriers should not stand in the way of investigations and rescues.

As an aside, for multi-jurisdictional investigations, teams should ensure that individual members can view the information in the language of their choice in real-time. If the information was entered by an investigator in Brazil using Portuguese, that information should immediately be readable to a team member in Colombia who understands only Spanish. Always focus on ensuring your team members have access to accurate information in real-time. When time is lost, the cockroaches scatter.

Ensuring that sensitive data is available only to those with proper permissions is vital to keeping human trafficking investigations on track.

In those unique situations where individual team members do NOT require access to the information, perhaps because an investigation is particularly sensitive or involves public officials, your case management system should have capabilities to disallow them from viewing the update. This keeps information in the correct hands, while still furthering the integrity of the data-sharing requirement.

Only when information is shared in real-time can managers and team leaders best determine the next steps for the investigation and rescue of victims.

Best Practice #3 – Maintain Investigation Privacy and Integrity

As mentioned above, human trafficking organizations are like cockroaches. The moment they sense something is going to shine a light on them, they disappear into the woodwork. This most tragic of outcomes is painful for both the investigators and victims alike.

Keeping the investigation lights off, therefore, must be a strategic goal of human trafficking investigations. Assigning roles to your team, and ensuring that all members are adhering to those roles, is one way to keep your actions covert and secure. If a team member’s role is to pose as an interested buyer of sex, that team member should probably not also be involved in general reconnaissance of crime scenes where he or she may be recognized.

Policies and procedures exist for a reason. Ensure that they are followed. Even seemingly small mistakes can cause an investigation to derail.

Another way to ensure privacy and integrity is to utilize cutting-edge access policies to ensure that information is not accessed by outsiders or, worse yet, an insider to your team. Ensure, therefore, that EVERY SINGLE KEYSTROKE into your case management system is logged and reviewable. If your suspect organization packed up and left mere days before your major rescue and arrest operation, its important to know how that happened. Who accessed the information in your case management system, and why?

Make sure that the information your team is electronically storing is secure. Very secure. Use globally recognized and proven data security standards to protect all data and access to it. Ensure that all team members are trained and well-versed on any systems you are using for investigations.

There can never be too much integrity in a human trafficking investigation, and there can never be too much privacy. Loose lips sink ships. The same goes for loose investigation procedures. The line between a rescued victim and a lost opportunity is thin. Use investigation privacy and integrity to walk that line more effectively.

Best Practice #4 – Share Information with Senior Law Enforcement or Trusted Partners

As a team of human trafficking investigators, you recognize the seriousness and horror of human beings – like you, like me, like our daughters, sons, and grandchildren – being bought and sold for pleasure. You understand the misery of the victims and feel compelled to help. Good. That makes you a good person.

Law Enforcement agencies, however, do not typically act as emotional human beings. They have full caseloads involving homicides, drugs, corruption, and a host of other traditional crimes. Too often, they view human trafficking as merely ‘prostitution’. If a person wants to sell his or her body in exchange for money, there are no victims and, therefore, these cases can often receive a very low priority. Many times, they are dismissed out of hand.

The job of the human trafficking investigation team, therefore, is to get the attention of senior local law enforcement partners in a direct and meaningful manner… one that compels the officers to work with your team in rescues and arrests.

When meeting with Law Enforcement partners, be prepared.

Our history and background suggest that engaging senior law enforcement ‘too early’ adds risk to the investigation. Remember, loose lips sink ships, and these cases are often viewed as unimportant.

Sadly, our experience also shows that involving senior partners ‘too late’ is problematic as police departments are often reluctant to become involved in situations that they have not directly controlled and cannot easily verify the integrity of the work done prior to their involvement.

So, the answer of when to involve your senior partners is unique to each case and each situation. That decision can’t be covered in detail here. Instead, the method used to involve local senior law enforcement – whenever that transpires – is a factor that you can and should control to maximize the potential for a successful operation.

Sharing a full case file with Law Enforcement is vital to achieving their assistance. Wherever possible, use specific statutes and violation codes to help your partners understand the work you’ve put in.

Going in to meet with your prospective law enforcement partner should be a pleasant experience. Your team has built a good case and you’re ready to involve the authorities to help finalize the operation. Going in unprepared, however, will result in disappointment or disaster. As advocates for the prosecution of these types of crimes, you’re full of passion. Best practices, however, show that it is equally important to be full of actionable facts, evidence, and proof.

Therefore, best practices suggest that you build a ‘case file’ as you prepare to meet with law enforcement or senior management. On television, they sometimes call the visual representation of this case file a ‘murder board’. Make sure you have one. Make sure your case file lists ALL of the entities involved in your case. Make sure it includes all of the specific actions you’ve taken. Make sure it includes all of the audio, video, photos, and other evidence you’ve gathered.

Make sure the case file clearly shows the human trafficking operation. Who is in charge? Who are victims? What locations are involved? Who are the supporting witnesses?

Without an easy-to-digest case file, your chance of getting senior law enforcement’s attention diminishes quickly. So, utilize your case management system to very clearly outline the case in a compelling and thorough manner.

Best Practice #5 – Plan, Plan, and Plan Again

The final best practice is Operational Planning. Not to overstate it, but as I’ve said earlier human traffickers are cockroaches. At the first sign of light, you’ll lose them. Every time.

The final best practice for investigating human trafficking is perhaps the most important. Plan.

The biggest key to a successful human trafficking investigation boils down to three elements: Plan, Plan, and Plan Again!

Plan, then plan again, and then plan once more. Plan your response to every initial tip. Plan your initial investigation work into every case. Plan the tasks and mission of every operative involved in your case. Plan how to get case information into the hands of those who need it in real-time. Plan to keep the investigation quiet so as not to risk the cockroaches running.

Plan every covert operation as if lives depended upon it. They might. Plan in advance what the ‘panic’ word is. Plan in advance what hand signals your operative might use if audio fails. Plan in advance to know where the nearest trauma center is. Plan in advance to know what other risks are present. Dogs? Security? Children?

Plan and make that plan available to everyone who needs to see it. Share that plan in your case management system and know when every user has read it.

Finally, plan to present your case in a compelling manner to senior law enforcement officials. And then work with them on a plan to successfully pull victims out of harm’s way and arrest the bad guys.

Summary of Best Practices

Software from Case Closed Software™ helps NGO’s and other parties manage successful investigations into human trafficking.

We have covered some of the key ingredients to a successful human trafficking investigation and rescue. Of course, no operation ever goes exactly as you expect, but by ensuring that you are following these best practices – staying organized, sharing internal information, maintaining investigation integrity, effectively engaging with senior law enforcement officials, and conducting meticulous planning – you greatly increase the likelihood that your efforts will result in the wonderful rescue of victims and the prosecution and incarceration of the perpetrators.

By Douglas Wood, entrepreneur and investigation management professional.

Copyright 2021 Case Closed Software™

Case Closed Software™️ in the News: 9 Dogs Rescued from NC Dogfighting Ring

GASTON COUNTY, N.C.  – 9 pitbull terriers from a home in Gaston County, NC are safe today after being rescued from a dogfighting ring earlier this week.

Janette Reever of the Humane Society International’s global anti-dogfighting team says that the animals are on their way now to an undisclosed shelter run by specialists in rehabilitating abused animals.

Janette Reever heads up the anti-dog fighting team at the Humane Society International

The Humane Society International uses specialized investigation management software from Texas-based Case Closed Software™ to track and investigate dogfighting and other forms of animal abuse around the globe. ™

“It’s not just medical treatment, it’s complete mind and body therapy,” Reever explained. “Removing them off their collars, you can see their relief. They know they’re being taken away.”

She says the animals have already been treated with antibiotics and pain killers for their injuries.

“What’s so unique about American Pitbull Terriers, or pitbulls in general, is that they are so loyal,” Reever said. “That’s why they are terribly exploited. You can do horrific things to them and they will still love you and still want to fight to the death for you.”

Reever says seven dogs were rescued from dogfighting on Wednesday. Two weeks prior, two dogs were rescued from animal cruelty.

One man faces eighteen felony charges related to dogfighting, cruelty to animals, and possession of drugs.

Veterans 4 Child Rescue Deploys Leading-Edge Technology to Battle Age-Old Human Trafficking Problem

Tucson, AZ – (April 1, 2021) Vets 4 Child Rescue (V4CR), a non-profit organization formed in 2017 and dedicated to fighting child rape trafficking, announced today that they have adopted the industry leading investigation case management system from Austin, TX based Case Closed Software™.

According to a V4CR spokesperson, their non-profit’s mission is 3-fold:

Nationwide alert: Provide nationwide attention to the prevalence of child rape trafficking that is rampant in all 50 states. This is done through traditional media, social media and our Nationwide Volunteer program.
Arrest child predators: An investigative team uses their military and law enforcement experience to run operations in conjunction with local/federal law enforcement and district attorneys to arrest predators that prey on children and to ensure that they will see the cases through to conviction.
Protect our children: The V4CR Nationwide Volunteer program provides educational outreach programs to arm citizens with the necessary tools to protect their children and maintain safe communities.

“V4CR is fully committed to the rescue of children, and we’re investing in the best technologies possible to assist us. Case Closed Software is a huge part of that strategy”, says V4CR Founder and Veteran Navy SEAL Craig “Sawman” Sawyer. “With these leading-edge tools, we can ensure the evidence will be processed optimally and the predators brought to legal account behind bars where they can harm no more.”

Craig grew up near Houston, TX, got his tactical start in the U.S. Marine Corps, and quickly transitioned to the U.S. Navy to pursue high-level Special Operations as a U.S. Navy SEAL. As an Operator on the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), Craig gained critical combat experience that is now being utilized to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Because of his experience as a federal criminal investigator, Craig is uniquely qualified to run joint sting operations with law enforcement agencies and allied Non-Governmental Organizations.

Case Closed Software, founded in 2016 by Austin TX entrepreneur Douglas Wood, provides V4CR with robust software designed to assist in their fight against human trafficking and child rape. The software helps V4CR track the entire case lifecycle from tips to post-prosecution, and has revolutionized their ability to work more cases, arrest more perpetrators, and most importantly rescue more children.

“With all of our law enforcement connections and investigators, we needed a platform that will allow us to better our operations and use our resources to their full capacity” added Pete McCarthy, the director of investigations at V4CR. “Case Closed Software gives us end-to-end case management with a configurable workflow, tips and leads management, evidence tracking, operations planning, multi-language support, and a host of other powerful features including entity deconfliction and visualization.”

Old West crime meets New Age technology

Billy the Kid carved his name into history through his exploits during and after the Lincoln County War.  In a career filled with almost impossible escapes and daring acts in battle, the “Kid” nevertheless found himself on the losing side of the war and, in its aftermath, was branded the West’s most notorious and wanted desperado.

Cold West Investigations uses advanced software to breathe new life into old west cases such as Billy The Kid (pictured)

Reportedly killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett in 1881, rumors persisted that the Kid survived, and new evidence developed by Cold West Detective Agency may prove that the Kid lived well into the Atomic Age.

Cold West Detective Agency takes a different and unique approach to history. While historians like to ‘study’ it, Cold West detectives actually ‘investigate’ it as a cold case.  Working with law enforcement, Cold West detectives bring distinctive and rare expertise to the investigation of historical cold cases.

Blending old-west footwork with leading-edge investigation case management technologies from Texas-based Case Closed Software, Cold West detectives perform robust investigations at these century-old crime scenes.

Cold West picks up where history left off, and that can make some historians uncomfortable.  It’s been said that “dead men tell no tales”, but when Cold West’s group of hardened investigators combine their expertise and curiosity with Case Closed Software, these investigations come back alive, and history begins to speak its secrets.

Cold West uses the “posse method”, utilizing experts from any and every field required to move the case forward.  They work hand-in-hand with local Sheriffs, police, tech experts, federal agents, historians, and other experts, using cutting edge modern crime scene investigative methods (CSI) to develop never before seen and court-accepted evidence that changes history.

“Case Closed Software has been a game-changer for us”, said Steve Sederwall the co-founder of Cold West and former federal criminal investigator. “Our ability to blend all of our new investigation findings with all of those historical records helps us identify and develop new tips on our historical cases.”

Read a cool BuzzFeed feature on Steve Sederwall and Cold West HERE.

Recently, Cold West – in the midst of investigating another famous old west crime – used Case Closed to develop previously unknown information that could completely change history’s view of the case.  That investigation continues today.

“I like to think about how Jesse James or Billy The Kid would react to seeing how the accepted narrative of their demise is being changed through the work of Cold West detectives using modern and leading-edge technology”, added Case Closed Software’s president Douglas Wood.

Case Closed Software Announces Advances in Investigation Software

Crime Technology Solutions, LLC has deployed a new global release of its Case Closed Software that focuses on helping organizations better manage complex, multi-jurisdictional investigations.

“Case Closed Software is widely recognized as the only true investigation software for multi-jurisdictional investigative agencies”, said the company’s CEO and founder Douglas Wood. “With our latest version, we expand even further into solving the unique problems faced by task forces, global organizations, and other more specialized investigation units”.

New features of Case Closed Software include:

  • Multi-Language Support, which enables Case Closed Software users to interact with the application in any language they choose. All data is translated in realtime so users who speak different languages can share intelligence and case information.
  • Integrated Operations Plan gives organizations the ability to plan and execute strategic investigative operations across jurisdictions. With Case Closed Software’s Operations Plan, users are all executing their initiatives in sync, and everyone is on the same page in terms of strategy and tactics.
  • Improved data entry options, making it easier for investigators to quickly get relevant information into the system. The new system allows administrative re-naming of fields for localization, enhanced drop-down menu functionality, and the ability to remove unused fields completely from the interface.
  • Case Visualization allows users to quickly visualize the elements of their case. Entities such as people, locations, and vehicles are displayed in a simple ‘tree format’ that allows users to click through information related to those entities. With this feature, users can easily view where else their case entities exist within the system across cases and across jurisdictions.
  • Google Location Integration, allowing critical addresses and locations to be entered quickly and accurately. Not all locations are addresses, and the new Case Closed Software features allow users to pin locations on an integrated map. Lat/Long, country, province/state, etc are all auto-populated.

“With global customers like Humane Society International, Exodus Road, and others it is important to continually strive to keep our Case Closed Software at the head of the class. Our latest version is another step in our endless march to remain the go-to solution for investigation case management.”

Download the Case Closed Software product sheet for Multi-Jurisdiction Investigations.

Or, for more information about Crime Technology Solutions, LLC and Case Closed Software, visit https://www.caseclosedsoftware.com

Authorities Suspect There Are 150 Secret Dog Fighting Rings In Australia

Humane Society International’s (HSI) senior specialist in global anti-dog fighting, Janette Reever, says that the popularity of dogfighting is increasing and is often linked to domestic violence incidences.

See the full story HERE.

Editor’s Note: HSI utilizes Case Closed Software to investigate and help prosecute cases of dogfighting and other forms of animal abuse. 

Task force commander says Rossville drug bust took quarter-million dollars worth of drugs off the street

The Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit drug task force seized nine pounds of meth and arrested two people. The task force also confiscated eight ounces of heroin, 24 grams of psilocybin (mushrooms), a firearm and $1,300 cash.

Methamphetamine is often sold in bags that each contain 3.2 grams of the drug. The packet is known as an 8-ball. 

See the full story HERE

Year long Ohio drug task force investigation leads to arrests on drug and weapons charges

According to Commander Justin Conley of the Brown County Drug and Major Crimes Task Force, the people arrested are allegedly responsible for distributing more than 100 pounds of methamphetamine and several firearms in the area.

Read the impressive story HERE.

With Case Closed Software, The Lookout Mountain Drug Task Force just made a major drug seizure

“The Drug Task Force will continue to proactively and aggressively combat drugs in our community. We appreciate the support of so many and cooperation with all the agencies the Drug Task Force serves.”

LMJCDTF uses Case Closed Software to manage task force cases. Read the story HERE

No safe consumption site for Manitoba in Drug Task Force report

The Illicit Drug Task Force report was commissioned with a view to identifying recommendations to reduce the use and effects of illicit drugs in Manitoba communities. The recommendations focus on increasing safety through prevention, education, treatment, and enforcement and disruption of supply.

“The purpose of this (task force) was to really amplify the sense of urgency and actions by all levels of government”

The key recommendations included:

  • Develop and promote community safety networks.
  • Use a Crime Stoppers campaign to target information on illicit drugs and dealers, with funding for cash rewards.
  • Develop accessible, culturally appropriate recreation opportunities for children and youth.
  • Seek business support to create employment opportunities.
  • Create safe spaces with extended hours, ideally operating 24/7.
  • Expand the Winnipeg Drug Treatment Court and add other drug treatment courts outside of Winnipeg and identify affordable housing for participants.
  • Create “enforcement and disruption teams” through law enforcement to combat the illicit drug trade.
  • Establish a co-ordinated approach to detoxification, medical transition, treatment and supportive housing.
  • Increase hours at rapid access to addictions medicine clinics and increase spaces for treatment they refer to.
  • Increase emergent telehealth services for adult and youth mental health and addictions services.
  • Add withdrawal management services and amend the Intoxicated Persons Detention Act to address meth addiction and withdrawal challenges.
  • Create centralized needle distribution.
  • Create an alert system to share information on emerging issues.

See the full article HERE.

(Posted by Case Closed Software – the leading solution for law enforcement task force use)