7: The Criminal Investigation of Human Trafficking Crimes in the UK: Benefits and Challenges of Police Collaboration During Police Investigations

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A growing body of research has been published examining the detection, investigation, and prosecution of human trafficking crimes. Despite human trafficking being one of the most complex crimes to detect and investigate, police collaboration with partner agencies has been found to promote the prosecution of offenders and the safeguarding of victims. Nonetheless, discrepancies in the practice of police collaboration to investigate human trafficking exist in England and Wales. While multi-agency collaboration to respond to complex problems is a well-studied area, limited empirical knowledge exists on the practice of police collaboration during human trafficking investigations.

This chapter provides insight into the complexity of conducting human trafficking police investigations and police collaboration through a data-driven understanding of how police collaborations are undertaken in practice. Through the examination of two police human trafficking operations, this chapter provides both an understanding of the benefits of police collaboration and the challenges and limitations faced by the police when collaborating with other agencies. Data were gathered from interviews with lead investigators, police files, and other official documents, and analysed through thematic analysis between 2018 and 2020. Findings reveal the importance of police collaboration to ensure a victim-centred and intelligence-led approach, highlighting the critical role of non-government organizations in promoting victims’ engagement. Nevertheless, further research on police collaboration during human trafficking investigations is needed to better inform practice.

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