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How, Where, and When To Report the Crime of Human Trafficking To Law Enforcement



How do I Report a Crime of Human Trafficking?

If you are currently a victim of human trafficking under state or federal law, or are a survivor of sex or labor trafficking that occurred in the past, as a child or as an adult, you may choose to report the crime to a law enforcement agency. This article will discuss how, where, and when to report depending upon whether you choose to report to a state or federal law enforcement agency.

Choosing whether to report the crime of human trafficking to the police and to pursue prosecution through the criminal justice system is a personal decision that depends on your own facts and circumstances. The staff at LSNJ PROTECT can assist a victim/survivor in making this important decision and guide you through the process. You may reach us by calling the PROTECT toll free hotline at 1-844-576-5776.

New Jersey laws and federal laws against human trafficking are similar, but whether you report under the state or federal law determines the agency to which you report, and how long the police have to file charges after the crime occurs.

If you decide to report a state crime of sex or labor trafficking, there are a few different agencies to choose from. Where you report a crime is called “jurisdiction.” The “jurisdiction” for a state crime is where the crime occurred, and where you should report it. It does not matter where the victim or the trafficker lives at the time the crime is committed. You can report to a local municipal police department (for example, the township, borough, or city police department) where the crime occurred. If the New Jersey State Police (NJSP) is responsible and patrols the area instead of the local police department, you should report the crime to that NJSP station. If the crimes occurred in several different jurisdictions, you can start by reporting the crimes to the local police department or NJSP station where the crimes occurred more frequently.

In addition, every county prosecutor’s office has one or more human trafficking liaisons who handle reports and prosecutions of human trafficking. You may choose to report to a liaison in the prosecutor’s office where the crime occurred. To call in a tip or reach a New Jersey law enforcement agency, contact the New Jersey Human Trafficking Hotline at 855-END-NJ-HT (1-855-363-6548).

If you choose to report to a federal law enforcement agency, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) for a violation of the federal law against human trafficking, you should contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline (NHTC) at 1-888-373-7888 or text BEFREE (233733). Both have main offices in Newark for North Jersey and regional offices in South Jersey or Philadelphia. The NHTC will direct you to the right federal agency.

How much time do I have to report?

Offenders have to be charged with state or federal crimes within a certain time after a crime occurs, which is called the “statute of limitations.” For the state crime of human trafficking, the charge needs to be filed within five years after the crime occurred. This is the statute of limitations for most crimes in New Jersey. However, a bill pending before the state legislature would make human trafficking a crime that can be charged at any time after it occurred. If this bill passes, there would be no statute of limitations for human trafficking, like the crimes of murder, manslaughter, and sexual assault.

The federal crime of human trafficking must be filed within 10 years after the crime occurred. Federal law allows law enforcement twice as much time as state law to file charges after a crime occurred.

What if I want to file a civil suit against my trafficker?

A person may choose to file a civil action (lawsuit for monetary damages) against a trafficker in addition to, or instead of, reporting the crime of human trafficking. A civil action can also be filed in state or federal court. If you filed state criminal charges, you should file your civil suit in the state court system also. If you filed federal criminal charges, you should file a civil suit in federal court. The state statute of limitations to file a civil suit is an open question but it can be argued that a person should have five years from when the offense occurred to file a civil action, which would be the same as the criminal statute of limitations. Many state civil actions have to be filed within two years after the offense occurred. However, the state criminal law specifically provides that a human trafficking victim can bring a civil action against the trafficker and others acting with the trafficker in addition to other civil, administrative, or criminal remedies that may be available. A federal civil action must be filed the later date of 10 years after the offense occurred or 10 years after the victim reaches 18 years of age, if the victim was a minor at the time of the offense.  

Can I apply for crime compensation as a victim of human trafficking?

After the victim/survivor reports the crime of human trafficking to the police, she or he may seek to recover financial assistance from the New Jersey Victims of Crime Compensation Office (VCCO). Assistance is available for victims, their families, and service providers. VCCO awards can help with economic and emotional burdens such as out-of-pocket medical and counseling expenses as well as relocation expenses. VCCO eligibility requires that the crime must be reported to police within nine months after the crime, or within nine months from the time it was known, or from the time there was reason to believe that a crime occurred.

Although a victim must cooperate with the police or prosecutor’s office, VCCO eligibility is not dependent upon arrest, conviction or prosecution of the trafficker. Filing a temporary restraining order and seeking to obtain a final restraining order will likely meet the eligibility requirements as well. The crime must occur in New Jersey, but you need not be a New Jersey resident to file an application. Several different crimes are included and different types of benefits can be recovered.

A link to the VCCO application is on the Office of the Attorney General’s website. The website provides information about eligibility, FAQs, types of benefits covered, maximum awards, a complete list of crimes, and the documents that must be attached to an application. LSNJ also has an Interactive Application for Victims of Crime Compensation. ​​