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Report: New Data on Victims in 2021 Federal Criminal Human Trafficking Cases

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The Human Trafficking Institute's 2021 Federal Human Trafficking Report features trends in victim recruitment and types of coercion from federal prosecutions.

This data makes it easy to understand trends in prosecution between 2000 and 2021, providing valuable insights we can use to ensure traffickers are brought to justice for years to come.”
— Lindsey Lane, HTI Senior Legal Counsel
WASHINGTON, DC, USA, June 28, 2022 / -- The 2021 Federal Human Trafficking Report is now available, on the Human Trafficking Institute’s (HTI) website– The Report, a project of HTI, is a continuation of HTI’s efforts to provide comprehensive data about every criminal human trafficking case filed in the federal courts each year. The Report is the only publicly available collection of all federal human trafficking prosecution data.

The 2021 Report features data from every federal criminal human trafficking prosecution filed between 2000 and 2021. The Report includes categories like victim ages, genders, and citizenship statuses, defendant demographics, top identified vulnerabilities, and methods of coercion used, alongside key trends over the last 22 years.

“The extensive data collected in the 2021 Federal Human Trafficking Report makes it a fantastic tool for both practitioners and the public to evaluate our response to combating human trafficking through the Federal justice system,” said Lindsey Lane, HTI Senior Legal Counsel. “Prosecution is an essential component of the U.S. anti-human trafficking response. This data makes it easy to understand trends in prosecution between 2000 and 2021, providing valuable insights we can use to ensure traffickers are brought to justice for years to come.”

The Report presents an enormous amount of data using a digestible, integrative design. Alongside the Report, HTI is launching a website with interactive data dashboards to help researchers, reporters, and the general public sort and view the data most relevant to them. The site currently features the ability to sort case information by district, type of trafficking, ages of victims, pre-existing relationships between victims and recruiters, and industries in which forced labor occurred. The Report database is extensive and this new site will provide a significant resource to anyone interested in learning about the types of human trafficking cases prosecuted in the United States. You can find the website at

“To celebrate the fifth Federal Human Trafficking Report, we are including an interactive component to our data to make the Report even more useful to policymakers, prosecutors, researchers, and reporters looking to learn more about how the United States is enforcing its human trafficking laws,” said Victor Boutrous, HTI CEO. “This website provides all of us with necessary data to improve our collective efforts to fight human trafficking.”

Key takeaways from the 2021 Federal Human trafficking Report include:

- There were 140 new criminal human trafficking cases filed in the United States Federal Courts in 2021. The number of new cases filed decreased by 22% since 2020.

- 92% of new criminal cases filed in 2021 were for sex trafficking and 8% of new criminal cases were for forced labor.
- The number of criminal forced labor cases filed in 2021 increased by 22% since 2020.

- There were 449 victims in new cases filed in 2021, 64% (287) were victims of sex trafficking and 36% (162) were victims of forced labor. The total number of victims in new cases filed in 2021 declined 25% from 2020.

- There were 260 new defendants charged with human trafficking in 2021. Compared to 2020, there was a 5% decrease in the number of new defendants charged in 2021. Since 2017, the number of defendants charged has decreased by 37%.

- Over half (57%) of the victims identified in new criminal human trafficking cases in 2021 were minors.

- Victims often know their trafficker or know the person recruiting them on behalf of the trafficker. The top three pre-existing relationships used to recruit a victim into sex trafficking in 2021 included: friend/classmate (7), mutual friend (5), and intimate partner (3).

- Since 2000, traffickers have recruited 55% of sex trafficking victims online, usually through social media platforms, web-based messaging apps, online chat rooms, dating apps, classified advertisements, or job boards. (Based on 655 of 1,183 victims from 2000 to 2021 with at least one known method of recruitment.)

The 2021 Federal Human Trafficking Report’s findings are not a prevalence estimate of trafficking in the United States, but instead, serve as an objective summary of how the federal justice system holds traffickers accountable for their crimes. The Report does not capture data from all federal civil cases, state prosecutions, state civil suits, or human trafficking cases that are not prosecuted.

To request an interview with a Report Author and prosecution expert, please send us an email at or submit a Media Request Form.

The Human Trafficking Institute exists to decimate human trafficking at its source by empowering police and prosecutors to stop traffickers. Working inside criminal justice systems, HTI provides the embedded experts, world-class training, investigative resources, and evidence-based research necessary to protect victims.

Kimberly Thompson
Human Trafficking Institute
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