National Law Enforcement in a Globalized World: The Case of Human Trafficking

37 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2013

See all articles by Richard W. Frank

Richard W. Frank

Australian National University (ANU)

Beth A. Simmons

University of Pennsylvania

Date Written: 2013


Human trafficking has become a critical global issue since the 1990s. At the intersection of human rights, human security, and transnational criminal control, human trafficking is increasingly at the forefront of United States foreign policy. One of the central policy responses to the problem of human trafficking – central both to international law, regional European law, and domestic US law – has been to criminalize it and work to prosecute traffickers. Yet little to nothing is known about the consequences of a prosecutorial approach. We suggest there are at least three theoretical possibilities: (1) criminalization may have no effect on trafficking; (2) criminalization may reduce human trafficking, and/or (3) criminalization may divert human trafficking from one jurisdiction to another, as traffickers seek the path of least resistance toward profiting from the exploitation of potential workers. To test these ideas, we have developed a unique time series dataset that documents trafficking “corridors:” dyads of states between which human trafficking has credibly been observed and reported in the annual United States Trafficking in Persons Reports. We find evidence of a reduction of trafficking within corridors where enforcement has been strengthened, but also diversion of trafficking towards contiguous neighbors of the enforcers. This is important because it suggests the enforcement of criminal law can have transnational negative externalities unless it is approached in a coordinated fashion.

Keywords: human trafficking, trafficking in persons, globalization, criminal justice, diffusion transnational crime, law enforcement, negative externalities

Suggested Citation

Frank, Richard W. and Simmons, Beth A., National Law Enforcement in a Globalized World: The Case of Human Trafficking (2013). APSA 2013 Annual Meeting Paper, American Political Science Association 2013 Annual Meeting, Available at SSRN:

Richard W. Frank (Contact Author)

Australian National University (ANU) ( email )

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2601

Beth A. Simmons

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
7817990076 (Phone)

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics