ST. PAUL — Law enforcement agencies across the state will begin training on how to spot and investigate labor trafficking in Minnesota starting this fall.
Labor trafficking is the exploitation of someone for profit by forcing them to work or provide services against their will. The crime does not require the perpetrator to cross state lines and is not the same as human trafficking.
The Advocates for Human Rights group has partnered with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the Minnesota Department of Health to create the specific training called Minnesota Labor Trafficking Protocol for Law Enforcement.
Advocates for Human Rights senior researcher Madeline Lohman said so far only a handful of labor trafficking cases have been criminally charged in the state, making it difficult to know the magnitude of the problem. Lohman hopes the new law enforcement training will help bring more cases out of the shadows.
“It’s about how you can walk into a situation and know you need to dig deeper,” Lohman said. “That it’s not just a roadside check, a case of assault or theft. You are looking at something bigger.
According to the state, the most common types of exploitation occur in domestic work, agriculture, construction, illegal activities, or in traveling sales teams. People in vulnerable situations, such as recent migrants or people in economic difficulty, run a high risk of being exploited. These factors explain why labor trafficking often goes unreported.
In 2016, Lohman said her organization first partnered with others to provide training to employers, housing providers, worker rights groups, domestic violence advocates and civil servants. other community actors to better identify labor trafficking and connect victims with appropriate resources.
After the first year of training, Lohman said identified cases went from about 50 to 400 through community intervention. The comprehensive new training for law enforcement personnel could bring another spike in identified cases. Training ranges from how traffic patrol officers can spot early warning signs to how investigators can build cases and build relationships with victims over time.
“It’s about looking at both sides of things,” Lohman said. “‘How do you hold the abuser accountable by building a really strong criminal case and how do you support the survivor by making sure she has access to victim services.”
In a statement, BCA Superintendent Drew Evans said: “Helping law enforcement better understand, identify and respond to these crimes will improve investigations and help end labor trafficking. in Minnesota communities.”
Lohman said some warning signs include when an individual appears to have some sort of control over another person during a traffic stop or any encounter with police. There are also instances where a person may not know where they work or when they get paid or may be hesitant to talk about it.
“We don’t have a good scope of labor trafficking because the people who are victimized often don’t know they are a victim and are very afraid of their trafficker,” Lohman said. “These cases are there and everyone misses them.”
Lohman said investigating labor trafficking is still relatively new to many local police departments across the state.
The first BCA-led training for local law enforcement in the northern half of the state will take place Sept. 14 in Brainerd. The training will include discussions of case examples with those who have investigated labor trafficking and the stories of victims. The United States Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime provided funding to create the new protocols.
“It’s a chance to dig into the things that bring this to life,” Lohman said.
Lohman said his team will collect information through 2023 on how the training is used in the first year to assess its effectiveness.
Advice on suspected labor trafficking can be provided to BCA at 651-793-7000 or [email protected]
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