Preventing Human Trafficking through a systemic, intelligence-led approach

Preventing Human Trafficking through a systemic, intelligence-led approach

Sarah Brown, Head of Research & Intelligence at STOP THE TRAFFIK (STT), is currently undertaking a Fellowship with PaCCS and CSaP which began in the autumn of 2019. Sarah manages the collection and analysis of data and the dissemination of intelligence for STT. Her role includes building and maintaining information sharing partnerships and the identification and implementation of appropriate technology solutions. This week, she’s writing for PaCCS about her organisation’s work on human trafficking prevention.

STOP THE TRAFFIK (STT) is a pioneer in human trafficking prevention with an intelligence-led and evidence-based approach. Through information sharing and collaboration, STT is building a global picture of human trafficking hotspots and trends; enabling individuals, organisations and agencies to make more informed and better choices; signposting vulnerable people to safe places to get help and support; and encouraging appropriate responses and reporting.

I joined STOP THE TRAFFIK in 2016 as their lead analyst (in fact, their only analyst!) after having volunteered for them in various capacities since 2012.  It was an eye-opener to discover the lack of global human trafficking information that was available, in particular structured data that could be effectively analysed.  In order to improve this situation, we have concentrated on developing and implementing our collaborative, data-led model centred around ‘Collect; Analyse; Share; Apply’.


Through research, collaboration and technology, we gather information from various sources to achieve the richest possible picture of global human trafficking:

  • Open source information, including media, legal cases, government reports and academic research
  • Multi-sector partner data eg NGOs, financial institutions, businesses, government agencies
  • STOP APP: our global smart phone app where people can share suspicions or knowledge of exploitative situations securely and anonymously
  • Information from the general public who call or email us or fill in our online reporting form

The type of information we collect focuses on the ‘who, what, where, when, why and how’ of trafficking activity and is predominantly non-personal data.


This centres on creating insights from the collected data regarding human trafficking hotspots, trends and vulnerabilities.  We identify patterns and correlations that inform us where to focus our efforts and how trafficking is manifesting itself in specific locations and communities.  Only through gaining a better understanding of the issue will we be able to prevent it from happening.  Our ultimate goal is to further harness data and technology to enable us to be predictive rather than reactive.


Partnership is vital to everything we do.  Data and insights are ineffectual if others cannot access them.  We share both internally and externally to help people be better informed.  We create intelligence reports and visualisations to disseminate what we learn.  Without sharing and collaboration across and within sectors, we will never eradicate human trafficking.  No one individual, organisation or agency has the knowledge or capacity to solve this alone.


One key way we apply our insights is through the design and delivery of geo-targeted social media campaigns.  The locations and focus of these campaigns are initially determined through our analysis.  We then engage and collaborate with on-the-ground partners to ensure the content is locally appropriate and that we can safely signpost vulnerable people in those locations to relevant organisations and agencies for help, support and advice.

STT has four community coordinators working in partnership with local organisations and multi-agency teams across the UK. 

We also provide bespoke analysis, advice and support to businesses and financial institutions.  We believe that if the global business of human trafficking can be made less profitable and post more risk, it will stop.

Partners are able to apply the information we share to their own initiatives and objectives, helping them to focus resources and deliver appropriate responses.

Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL)

Our approach is one of adaptive learning.  We constantly improve our model and build evidence that preventative action and community resilience lead to the systemic disruption of human trafficking.

An independent evaluation of our work and model was recently completed. 

STT’s multi-sector approach includes working with academia.  The PaCCs and CsAP fellowship that I was awarded has been very helpful in this regard.  There is no data repository for academic research so it’s imperative to meet people working in the field in order to learn about their incredible work and see if there is scope for collaboration and knowledge sharing.  I have met with people from Bristol, UCL and York universities and discussed a wide-range of topics related to human trafficking activity and risks and what is making people vulnerable.

STT is also part of consortium that was awarded funding by ESRC and PaCCS for their call ‘Transnational organised crime: Deepening and broadening our understanding’.  Here are more details:  Deciphering and disrupting the social, spatial and temporal systems behind transnational human trafficking: a data science approach.  This project is specifically designed to expand understanding of the linkages between people (social networks) and places (spatial networks) involved in transnational human trafficking.  This is an area that STT is very familiar with due to our method of identifying hotspots, patterns and vulnerabilities.

If you would like to learn more about STT’s work and impact, please visit our website or email us at