A Proposal to Rescue Human Trafficking Victims
RescueRescue — an open ended proposal for new technology and strategies to prevent sexual human trafficking from happening and reduce its impact when it does.
We live in the harsh reality where the dangers of kidnapping are a constant fear for families and children. It is an unfortunate and profoundly sad statistic — 33% of human trafficking victims in the US are minors, and a striking 87% of all human trafficking victims are women.
When it comes to catching drug smugglers or illegal arms traders, it seems that the government has put its most powerful foot forward, doing whatever it takes to catch these criminals. While these are pressing issues of our time, it begs the question: why aren’t similarly powerful forces being used to eliminate human trafficking? Put simply, we’re not doing enough to stop this tragedy, and as a result it is directly affecting thousands of children around the world.
Sure, there are systems in place working tirelessly to stop the flow of human trafficking, and many have received praise for their effectiveness. The human trafficking hotline is the best example of this, enabling 24/7 access to help via text or phone in more than 200 languages.
The hotline is effective in gathering a database of information about human trafficking, and the service provides referrals to victims to help with their needs, involving law enforcement when necessary (only with the consent of the victim). While this hotline is a critical service to victims of sexual human trafficking I believe there is a fundamental flaw negatively impacting the efficacy of the system: in order to receive help, victims must first want to get out of their current situation, and then must get access to a phone. One of the biggest obstacles in reducing human trafficking is the fact that thousands of victims have developed a reliance on drugs, forging a dependent relationship to their pimp. Getting victims addicted to drugs is one of the first steps a pimp must take to ensure their victim doesn’t run away, and as a result it can be very difficult to rescue a victim when they don’t want to leave in the first place. Furthermore, it is not a safe assumption that victims have access to a telephone when they need it most. Every individual case is different, but I believe a system that does not rely on telephone access could be better suited at assisting victims.
My proposal is for a new technology that will work in conjunction with the human trafficking hotline while also seeking to help those not ready to leave their current situation, or those in need of help but without access to a phone. The system is a discreet hardware box that can be installed in highway rest stop bathrooms, motel lobbies, and fast food restaurants. Instructions on the box guide victims down one of two paths: immediate crisis evacuation, or extended surveillance evacuation. I encourage all readers to comment, criticize, and build upon this proposal, as I am aware there are some aspects that may not work as planned in the real world. With that being said, I hope this idea can be sculpted into an actual, effective resource for victims of human trafficking.
Immediate crisis evacuation
This rescue path is activated when users lift the cover and pull down the lever, and it enables victims of human trafficking to receive immediate evacuation assistance. Law enforcement is immediately notified of the location of the report, and can respond immediately. In addition, an on-site contact is subtly alerted to the situation and is instructed to keep an eye out for suspicious people in the rest stop or lobby. Directions on the interior of the box instruct victims to hide in a bathroom stall or janitor closet until help arrives. No phone is required to request help, and if RescueRescue units become a ubiquitous feature of rest stops we can create a network of new resources available to victims.
Extended surveillance evacuation
Not every instance of human trafficking can be solved with the immediate crisis evacuation. To active this method, users once again lift the cover of the box. Instead of pulling the lever, however, the user can choose to dispense a preprogrammed computer chip. Once dispensed, the chip acts as an NFC tag, emitting signals when the victim leaves the bathroom. Cameras in the lobby or rest stop can then identify who the victim leaves with, as well as that person’s vehicle license plate or registration. Once they leave the rest stop or motel, authorities intercept them further down the road. With this method, victims of human trafficking can be rescued without their captor knowing they submitted a report.
As I mentioned above, this is in no means a market-ready technology. I am seeking input on the proposal from others, and I hope to work together to do our part in reducing human trafficking. Please feel free to come forward with suggestions, research, or ideas that can help improve this proposal.