Why Native Communities Are at-Risk for Human Trafficking

Written on 01/17/2023

Think human trafficking isn’t happening in our community? You may want to think again.

Sex trafficking and labor trafficking. They’re happening in every corner of the country. And rural areas are no exception. In fact, perpetrators consider rural areas prime targets.

Native communities are especially at-risk for human trafficking. Some reasons your community may be vulnerable:

  • There are so many layers of jurisdiction. Few, if any, human trafficking cases happen within a single law enforcement jurisdiction. The very word “trafficking” means crimes are happening in multiple towns, counties, reservations, states. Even multiple countries. It takes extra effort for federal and local police to communicate and connect well. Coming to a unified strategy to tackle human trafficking is difficult. Traffickers are well aware of these challenges and exploit them.
  • Criminals are well resourced. Human trafficking perpetrators are not poor men down on their luck. They are gangs financed by rich, multinational cartels. A human trafficker can garner up to $125,000 a year for just a single girl.
  • It’s hard to keep up with their technology. Not only are these groups well resourced financially, but technologically. Criminals understand how to best use technology to make more money. They are able to write algorithms for the dark web. They also know how to evade law enforcement and eliminate evidence trails.
  • Transient places are popular for criminals. Criminal human traffickers are attracted to areas with transient populations. An example would be truck stops and man camps (for sex trafficking). Or agriculture communities (for human trafficking). Criminals also frequent revenue-generating locations (e.g., casinos) to find women/girls and clients.
  • Criminals seek girls and women from Native communities. Human traffickers are looking for girls and women who come from poor communities. Native communities tend to have higher rates of poverty. So criminals consider them as special targets.

These five areas are a bit oversimplified for such a complicated problem plaguing our communities. To learn more about human trafficking or the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP) or Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW), listen to or watch the War Cry Podcast.

The information in this article was adapted from Chris Cuestas’s conversation on the War Cry Podcast. Mr. Cuestas is a consultant for the National Violence Prevention Resource Center.

Why Native Communities Are at-Risk for Human Trafficking