Human Trafficking: Building an Agency’s Social Capital Through a Social Justice Response

hen Drequan Dugar was arrested on charges of human trafficking on February 18, 2014, by the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office in North Carolina, the case illustrated how the response to human trafficking has evolved from 10 years ago, which is when most law enforcement agencies first began to hear about modern slavery. The investigation into Dugar’s activities was launched by the New Hanover County Sheriff’s and District Attorney’s offices after a local nongovernmental organization (NGO) focused on protecting sexually exploited children and youth informed them that a local 15-year-old girl was appearing in an online ad for “adult services.” After a four-day investigation, Dugar was located and arrested, and the victim was safe, all through the outreach efforts of a local NGO, an effective response by local law enforcement aware of human trafficking, and the mutual trust between the two.1

It was also, in the eyes of Detective Will Campbell of the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office, a “non-funded task force and collaboration success.”2 Campbell is among the growing number of law enforcement professionals responding to human trafficking in their communities without the advantages of affiliation with a federally funded anti-trafficking task force. Often, these investigators bring their personal passion to the fight against slavery and are forced to develop their own expertise. They may choose to work these cases while other officers—even command staff—scoff at the idea that human trafficking occurs in their jurisdictions. The vast majority of police officers and deputies fighting slavery every day do so in relative isolation.