Human trafficking – Multinational challenge for forensic science

Magdalena M. Buś, Tim Schellberg, Bruce Budowle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing and profitable types of transnational crime. This form of modern-day slavery encompasses diverse practices of human exploitation such as sex trafficking, forced labor, marriage, begging, child soldiers, and illegal organ transplantation. The consequences of human trafficking affect all countries, are devastating for victims and society while impacting social, economic, and health costs. The project led by the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification (UNTCHI) is assisting Central American countries to identify the missing and address human trafficking by developing model legislation and policy, effective DNA forensic science capabilities and creating database systems. The focus for human identification is on at-risk individuals who are the most vulnerable part of society. This program engages the public and government to establish legislative models for DNA identification of missing persons that protect the privacy of individuals. The State of Texas recently provided support for UNTCHI to develop programs that address the human trafficking problem in Texas. The program will concentrate on training law enforcement agencies, healthcare professionals, students, and the public to recognize the signs of human trafficking and provide avenues of interdiction for victims. Additionally, as part of this effort a standalone humanitarian DNA database, which is established and managed by UNTCHI, has been implemented to enhance identification of missing persons, especially those who have crossed the border or may have been trafficked and died during their journey. As a standalone database, the system is not connected to the State DNA Index System (SDIS) or the National DNA Index System (NDIS) and thus not accessible by law enforcement. With this database, reference DNA profiles can be obtained from Central American countries and Mexico to identify human remains found in Texas while maintaining confidentiality and human rights. This work is an example of an effective means of transferring forensics, technology, and database practices, establishing policy and legislation, engaging the public, and developing strategies for sustainability for high incident countries. Ultimately the approach can promote a multinational exchange of DNA data to identify the missing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)403-405
Number of pages3
JournalForensic Science International: Genetics Supplement Series
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2019


  • DNA databases
  • DNA typing
  • Human trafficking
  • Humanitarian DNA database
  • Modern-day slavery


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