Washington, D.C. – As news outlets, advocates, and policymakers continue to draw attention to the need to address the trafficking of minors for sex, it is important to underscore the necessity of cross-sector and inter-agency cooperation, collaboration, and data sharing in addressing this unconscionable crime. Too often, victims face violence up to and including murder, and data collected by the FBI as part of the Bureau’s Highway Serial Killings Initiative could help law enforcement and advocacy groups better identify, understand, and combat instances of sex trafficking. Unfortunately, Freedom of Information Act requests and appeals for this information from ECPAT-USA – a leading advocacy group fighting sex trafficking in the U.S. and internationally – have been denied.
U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has sent a letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller urging him to release the data citing its ability to “assist policymakers, law enforcement, service providers, and advocates in identifying the ways to best support and strengthen existing efforts to eliminate human trafficking in Oregon and throughout the United States.”
“Through the utilization of existing data collected by federal, state, and local law enforcement, as ECPAT-USA’s FOIA request seeks to do,” Wyden wrote in the letter, “we can better understand the trends and practices associated with trafficking in persons and prevent more individuals--especially women and girls--from falling victim to this terrible crime.”
Wyden has been an advocate for combating sex trafficking of minors for many years and has sponsored legislation to improve law enforcement’s ability to effectively investigate and prosecute pimps and traffickers as well as give the victims of trafficking and forced prostitution the social services they need to recover from the crimes committed against them. The data collected as part of the HSK initiative has shown that approximately half of all victims studied in the report were identified as prostitutes, leading many to believe the HSK data could correlate heavily with sex trafficking and would improve efforts to combat these crimes. Wyden is calling on Director Mueller to release the data with all precautions taken to protect victim privacy so that the important analysis the FBI has already conducted could be used to prevent not just future killings along the highways, but also the trafficking of minors for sex.