Sex trafficking and the role of state police within Australia

Angeleke Elfes, Philip Birch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine operational policing practice with reference to reducing sex trafficking.
Design/methodology/approach – This is a qualitative study in which in-depth structured interviews were conducted with state police officers in one state of Australia.
Findings – The paper reveals that state police officers have a good understanding of sex trafficking and are involved in reactive policing methods in order to reduce this crime type. The data set yields a limitation in
proactive policing methods for reducing sex trafficking, primarily due to human and financial resources and the composition of state and federal laws and policing practices in Australia. Those interviewed also noted how sex trafficking can disguise itself as legitimate sex work.
Research limitations/implications – The effectiveness in operational practice at the local, national and international level in reducing sex trafficking can be enhanced through a more co-ordinated response to the problem. Recognition of better communication strategies and partnership working can support a reduction in sex trafficking as well as allowing those who are trafficked the status of “victim”.
Practical implications – To ensure those who are trafficked for sexual servitude are viewed and treated as victims within the law. To review how state police forces in Australia are resourced in order to proactively address sex trafficking. To ensure state police forces can engage in more proactive policing initiatives in order to prevent sex trafficking. Reflect on examples of good practice between federal and state police forces in Australia to implement a co-ordinated approach for combatting sex trafficking.
Originality/value – This is one of just a few studies examining organised crime from the perspective of law enforcement personnel within Australia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-75
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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