UCF Crime Lab Combats Human Trafficking Through Research

UCF Crime Lab Combats Human Trafficking Through Research

UCF Sociology’s “crime lab,” a team of faculty and students, is trying to help police and nonprofit agencies better understand human trafficking in hopes of stopping it.

While human trafficking is the latest crime the UCF team is tackling, it has been working with all sorts of crime data. The team works with data from the Uniform Crime Report, the Supplementary Homicide Report and the National Incident-Based Recording System from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, local law enforcement agencies and other organizations that outline how data and results of studies will be shared, published and distributed.

Sociology professors Lin Huff-Corzine and Jay Corzine started the lab about six years ago in Howard Philips Hall.

“The lab is not an official center or institute at UCF,” Corzine said. “But we needed something to call our operation, and it was born.”

Computers at the lab maintain major federal databases from the FBI, the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research, and other private and public organizations. Both public and restricted data sources have been provided to the lab.

The co-directors of the lab and also their students have served the community as consultants to analyze and process data for local law enforcement agencies, such as trends in violent crime. They have partnerships with the Orange, Brevard, and Seminole sheriff’s offices and the Orlando Police Department, as well as with national agencies such as the Behavioral Analysis Unit of the FBI.

The team is actively working on new human-trafficking data sets in the United States. These include FBI arrest data on human tracking, and services and phone calls from organizations that aid victims of human trafficking, such as Florida Abolitionist, the Greater Orlando Human Trafficking Task Force, law enforcement agencies and various service providers in Central Florida. The professors, along with sociology graduate student Ketty Fernandez, are working with human-trafficking scholars Kevin Bales from the University of Nottingham in England and Bernard Silverman, chief scientific adviser to the United Kingdom’s Home Office.

The researchers are attempting to provide the first measure of how many people are in slavery in Central Florida using a technique developed by Bales, Silverman and colleague Olivia Hesketh.

“In all of the developed countries, there is slavery,” Bales said. “But nobody knows the real number. That means that the governments don’t have a clue about how much money or resources should be allocated to combat it.”

Huff-Corzine said that the new research aims to give a more reasonable estimate, which will be invaluable for government agencies that need concrete data to allocate money to human trafficking advocacy organizations.

Huff-Corzine and Corzine oversee all data processing and analysis. Jolene Vincent, a doctoral student in the crime lab, maintains the data sets and is involved with supervising many of the ongoing projects.

UCF students and faculty members are also planning to evaluate a new court model that, once established, would assist victims of sex trafficking that are wrongfully accused of prostitution. Researchers are also conducting studies on the types of human-trafficking phone calls that come into the Florida Abolitionist hotline and other services available for trafficked individuals.

The researchers are working on other projects too, such as archiving all of the scrolls from memorials held to honor the victims of the Pulse nightclub shootings that occurred in Orlando on June 12, 2016. Hundreds of the messages that were left on scrolls placed outside of the nightclub and other locations are being photographed and chronicled by sociology major Cameron Walker. These are being preserved digitally by the crime lab and will be shared for research purposes.