Investigative Case: Play-by-Play

Laura Parker —  December 19, 2012

So, you’ve heard us say that a typical investigative mission costs us about $1,400 USD. And while that figure is extremely-incredibly-definitely-absolutely dependent on the type of case, the following is a typical example of a case The Exodus Road would help fund and what those donated funds would hopefully accomplish:

village

An Investigative Case Play-By-Play

1. Tip Received. Either through our own investigators, government contacts, other NGOs in the community, or individuals, a tip about potential trafficking or underage sex activity is given to our Field Director. These tips are the first step in the investigative case. (And you can help fund them monthly HERE.)

For the purpose of this example, let’s say that the a member of the NGO community noticed a 14-year-old girl working at a local brothel in a red-light district of a remote border town in Cambodia.  (Details do not represent an actual case but will be representative of cases we work.)

2. Collaboration Begins. The Field Director begins to bring others together to work on the particular case. From local NGOs to foreign ones, individuals and organizations begin to work on the case. Information is shared among those actively involved in intervention. (Hopefully in 2013 we’ll be able to provide the community with an office space which can serve as a place where these meetings can take place confidentially and effectively.)

In our example case, four representatives of two different NGO’s, the local anti-trafficking foundation, and a trusted police official come together to discuss the best ways forward. They share intel on past histories of the location/brothel, as well as any new details that will make the case run more smoothly.  

3. Evidence is Gathered. This is where the majority of funds raised lands. Investigators must travel to the place of suspicious activity (usually in groups of two and sometimes with the Field Director) and gather the needed proof of sexual slavery or exploitation. The costs here involve travel (plane, bus, car, etc.), lodging (typically 1-3 nights), food, and operational expenses. The operatives will often be gathering evidence with the surveillance equipment provided by The Exodus Road. Estimated Cost: $800 USD.

Two investigators and the Field Director travel (one flies by plane from a southern city) by bus to the remote village town where the brothel is located. Remaining undercover, they spend two nights gathering intelligence, eye witness accounts, and other evidence required by the local government to form a prosecutable case. They find 2 underage girls working in the brothel, and there are rumors to be two more. Upon returning, the investigators edit their evidence, write field reports, and then the Field Director hands the intel to trusted officials in the government.

4. A Plan Is Made. Working with the intervention community on the ground, the Field Director and others collaborate again on the best plan for the case. If the police are favorable, they will schedule the timing of the raid along with the individuals who will go to conduct it.

The police accept the evidence gathered by the investigative team and a raid is scheduled for the following Friday night.

5. Raid/Rescue. The Field Director, at least one member of the NGO community, social worker, police staff, translators ( if necessary), investigators (often, but now always), and national intervention teams travel to the site. They conduct a raid together, the NGO community following the lead of the local government. Exodus Road staff acts as support for the rescue in whatever capactiy needed. Victims are removed, interviewed, evaluated medically and emotionaly, interviewed, and then transferred to either a government facility or an after-care facility in our network. The traffickers or brothel owners are taken to jail to await trial. Many organizations typically share the funding needs of this mission. Estimated Cost: $600 USD.

Seven support staff accompany the local police to conduct the raid on the brothel in the Cambodian border town. They find three underage victims, but the rumored fourth is not on site. Two of the girls are underage, 15 and 16, and the third girl is 18 years old but was recently trafficked across borders against her will and held in debt bondage. After the rescue and interviewing process, the girls are transferred to a government facility for a short time, then to a quality after-care home, where they receive trauma counseling, education, and (hopefully) rehabilition. 

The brothel owner remains in local prison for six months awaiting trial. Because of the solid evidence gathered, he is convicted on several counts of human trafficking and the sale of sex with underage girls. He must pay a heavy fine, as well as spend several years in jail.

The brothel which he ran is shut down, and the entire community is more anxious to engage in such activity in the future.

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And while we can not, ever, guarantee a successful raid and prosecution, we can say that the above is representative of a typical investigative case The Exodus Road would help fund. Of course, there are huge variations from case to case based on the size and location of the criminal activity, the involvement with the local government, and the effectiveness of obtaining the right evidence.

It’s important to note that we always work with the national foundations or police, supporting their valuable work in fighting slavery in their own countries. Our goal is to eventually grant these organizations with funding to run more of their own cases effectively.

A few notes about funding an investigative mission:

  • Much of our tip gathering is funded through the Sponsor an Investigator program. With this monthly donation of $35, you pay an investigator to be on the streets looking for underage victims. (Want to? Go HERE.)
  • Exodus Road is not a “one-man-show.” There are many organizations which typically come together to both fund and work a typical case.
  • We also are committed to helping after-care facilities be successful, and a portion of our general budget will be dedicated to granting funds to the quality facilities in our network. (A more formal plan for this will roll out in 2013.)
  • Because most of those that work cases are already salaried by the organizations they primarily work with, we are able to maintain a fairly lean financial model on the field.

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And there you have it, folks– the play-by-play of an investigative mission into human trafficking and sexual slavery.  We hope that clarifies our case-based model of investigations and gives a general understanding of the how behind our work.

And while each mission funded is one step closer to slowing the mechanisms of trafficking, it is giant leaps towards hope for rescued victims.

Laura Parker

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