Human Trafficking Convictions Elusive for Connecticut Prosecutors

Apr 1, 2016

Victims themselves, who may not cooperate out of fear of retaliation, can be part of the problem.

In the decade since Connecticut first adopted a human trafficking law, not a single person has been convicted.

A panel discussion at the state Capitol Thursday tried to pinpoint why. Connecticut's Department of Children and Families says since 2006 there have been 432 underage victims of human trafficking. Federal prosecutors have managed to put away only 28 human traffickers since then, while the state hasn't convicted a single person.

The Permanent Commission on the Status of Women and three legislative committees held a hearing Thursday to find out why convictions are so rare in these cases. One big reason is the victims themselves.

"It's a special class of victims who do not want to cooperate with police, and who don't want to testify or give information against the pimps," said Chief State's Attorney Kevin Kane.

Several panelists testified that victims are often fearful of retaliation from their abuser. It's a problem, Kane told the panel, because most Connecticut human trafficking cases are built solely on the victim's testimony.

U.S. Attorney for Connecticut Deirdre Daly agreed it's harder for state prosecutors to gather evidence other than victim testimony because unlike the federal Justice Department, Connecticut does not have a grand jury system, which can be a valuable tool in trafficking cases, especially when it comes to subpoena power.

"Subpoenas allow us to gather payment records, internet service provider records, email records," Daly said. "We also gather phone records, travel records, hotel records, social media records, among other things through grand jury subpoenas."

Daly said the federal human trafficking law is more broad than the state statute, which leads to more convictions.

Despite these obstacles, panelists agreed that through legislative action and more resources for investigators and law enforcement, the state can do a better job prosecuting human trafficking cases in the future.