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The Counting Conundrum – Data on Trafficking

40.3 million people were victims of modern slavery in 2016. That is the estimate recently put forth by a new report (PDF) from the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the Walk Free Foundation. This number has been the source of many news headlines from outlets like CNN and the Washington Post. The report goes on to explain that of the estimated 40.3 million individuals, 15.4 million of these individuals are involved in forced marriage and 24.9 are individuals in forced labor situations. The Global Slavery Index (GSI), the tool used to calculate the estimate of enslaved persons has been the source of some debate. Anne Gallagher’s analysis of the GSI on openDemocracy captures much of the critiques of the GSI.

The inclination to cite statistics to support an argument is well-founded. After all, it is exceedingly difficult to work on an issue when there is not a baseline metric to which everyone can agree; which is to say nothing about the inherent challenges of operating in a field brimming with individuals who have different values, beliefs, and priorities who work together to address the issue. On this very point, Bill Gates advised Andrew Forrest – the billionaire who chairs the Walk Free Foundation – that a phenomenon does not exist if you cannot measure it, and if you cannot measure it, you cannot demonstrate the impact of any interventions. The challenge with human trafficking, unlike other social problems, is that the hidden nature of human trafficking makes it notoriously difficult to observe, let alone measure.

In a recent blog post on, Elizabeth Nolan Brown uses data from the most recent Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Report published by the FBI as evidence that the issue of human trafficking is overblown. The UCR Report publishes statistics from law enforcement agencies submitting one or more human trafficking incidents for at least 1 month of the calendar year and the published data does not necessarily represent reports from each participating agency for all 12 months of the calendar year – because not all local law enforcement entities reliably provide their data to the UCR Project. Put differently, UCR data may not accurately reflect the efforts of law enforcement in addressing trafficking. The UCR report itself provides a disclaimer stating, "[the data] should not be interpreted as a definitive statement of the level or characteristics of human trafficking as a whole." Furthermore, UCR data only represents data collected by law enforcement, it does not include data from social service providers and non-profit agencies that interact with human trafficking survivors.

The conversation about data is important because data, which influences public perception can impact government policies, funding, and resource allocation. The politicization of any issue, which includes the dissemination of statistics, can have significant and long-term negative consequences. If the public believes human trafficking looks a certain way, we can expect public outcry, funding, and policy measures to be directed towards how we collectively perceive these issues to be, which may or may not match the real need.

In the News

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The Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) with the U.S. Department of Labor recently released a new application called Comply Chain. Coupled with strong laws and government enforcement, the thrust of this effort is to promote effective company efforts across industries that protect the rights of workers' in operations throughout a company's supply chain. ILAB hopes to engender improved worker-employer communications that build trust, improve industrial relations, and ultimately increase profits of those organizations acting in compliance with the ILAB app.

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iEmpathize has announced "The Prevention Priority". The intent of their program is to advance the priority of sex trafficking prevention efforts in schools. Similar to Shared Hope, iEmpathize reviews states’ legislatively enacted provisions and places states into tiers based on their assessment of how each state has prioritized prevention education for youth.
Photograph of sunrise over sloan's lake in denver
The Partnership for Freedom recently announced the official start of Pathways to Freedom, the organization's third and final anti-trafficking challenge. Pathways to Freedom will challenge assumptions about trafficking and reward and support novel, city-wide approaches to preventing human trafficking and addressing the unmet needs of survivors in the United States. Humanity United and the NoVo Foundation lead this challenge in collaboration with 100 Resilient Cities. The Pathways to Freedom City Competition is open to cities within the 100 Resilient Cities network. 

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On the subject of data reports, the National Human Trafficking Hotline released a report ranking the 100 most populous U.S. Cities by the total number of calls to the hotline between December 7, 2007 to December 31, 2016. Denver ranks 29th in the number of calls to the hotline with 564 calls and ranks 30th in the total number of unique human trafficking tips with 133. 

Prosecutions and Convictions

A judge sentenced a Colorado man to 20 years in prison for human trafficking on September 7th, for human trafficking for sexual servitude. The defendant was arrested in March on allegations that he acted as a pimp for a young woman and a 17-year-old female, housing them in a Fort Collins hotel and taking care of their daily needs in exchange for the money they earned on his behalf performing sex acts. 

Upcoming Training, Conferences, and Webinars

The Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance (COVA) is hosting its 29th Annual COVA Conference October 22nd – 25th at the Keystone Conference Center. This year's conference includes a pre-conference session on human trafficking. For more information about the conference, visit the official registration page

The Human Trafficking Task Force of Southern Colorado will host its 10th Annual Human Trafficking Awareness Symposium titled, "Disruption" on Saturday, October 28th from 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM. Visit the event's official registration page for more information, including how to register.

The National Criminal Justice Training Center will host a webinar on Wednesday,
November 15th titled "Human Trafficking: Inside the Survivor's Mind." The webinar is meant to help participants understand complex PTSD and why a survivor may not run from their trafficker, understand how resilience helps in recovery, and what the recovery process looks like.

Save the date: Freedom Network USA recently announced that its 16th Annual Conference will take place on April 4th and 5th, 2018 in Denver at the Grand Hyatt! This year's conference theme is "Standing Tall: A Vision of Freedom in Times of Change."  Learn more about the 2018 Freedom Network Conference on their conference web page.

Seat Available on the Colorado Human Trafficking Council

The Council currently has a vacancy for a representative from a regional, city-wide coalition or task force. For more information please contact To apply for the position, you must submit your application through the Governor's Office on their Boards & Commissions Application page. 

Regional Anti-Trafficking Collaboration Meetings

October 9th,  4:00 – 5:00 PM: Western Slope Against Trafficking. Meetings are held in Grand Junction, CO but are not open to the public. For more information contact Tom Acker.

October 10th,  5:30 – 6:30 PM: Human Trafficking Task Force of Southern Colorado. This meeting is held at the First United Methodist Church in Colorado Springs (map). For more information, please contact Roger Patrizio.​
October 12th, 3:00 – 5:00 PM:  North Eastern Colorado Coalition Against Trafficking. Meetings are held in Greeley, CO but are not open to the public. For more information, please contact Diana Laws.

October 24th, 10:30 – 11:30 AM: Pueblo Alliance to Combat Human Trafficking meeting. This meeting is not open to the public. For more information, please contact

CHTC and FRAC Meeting Dates

Upcoming FRAC Meeting

October 19th from 2:00 3:30 PM:  Front Range Anti-trafficking Coalition (FRAC) meetings are open to the public. The location of the next FRAC meeting is the Community Room at the DPD District II Station. For more information about the next FRAC meeting, please contact Maria Trujillo.

Upcoming CHTC Meeting

October 27th from 9:00 AM 1:00 PM. The meeting will begin at 9 AM. Colorado Human Trafficking Council (CHTC) meetings are always open to the public and held at the Jefferson County Human Services Building (map). For more information about the CHTC please visit the CHTC Homepage.
The content of this newsletter is not an endorsement nor does it reflect the opinions, views, or affiliations of the Colorado Department of Public Safety, Division of Criminal Justice, the Colorado Human Trafficking Council, or the Front-Range Anti-trafficking Coalition. The content of this newsletter is intended for informational purposes only. 

Copyright © 2017 Colorado Department of Public Safety, Division of Criminal Justice, Office for Victims Programs, All rights reserved.

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