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Improving the understanding of and responses to internal child sex trafficking in the UK: An empirical multi-method analysis

7 March 2012

Ella Cockbain

This multi-disciplinary doctoral research will draw on a range of empirical analytical techniques to model the structure and function of internal child sex trafficking (ICST) networks. Unlike the vast majority of child sex offences, ICST typically involves multiple perpetrators and victims. Consequently, a network-based approach to modelling the crime and its agents appears critical for effective crime reduction. 

Access has been granted to sensitive police data from six major ICST investigations, involving hundreds of victims and offenders. These novel data will be analysed using social network analysis, empirical and statistical modelling and communications data analysis. In addition, original interviews with convicted ICST offenders will explore knowledge gaps around offending networks. Access to prisoners has been secured with the support of the Child Sexual Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP).

The findings are expected to shape a nascent research literature and directly impact both strategic and tactical policing. By offering data provision and support at a time of major budgetary cuts, police and other agencies demonstrated their confidence in the value of this research. This unique project has already attracted considerable interest from major national and international organisations including DSTL (the Ministry of Defence’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory), SOCA (Serious Organised Crime Agency), UKHTC (UK Human Trafficking Centre), the Home Office, CEOP, the Children’s Commissioner, the Dutch national rapporteur on trafficking, and numerous police forces, children’s services and third sector organisations. Early findings have been published in two academic articles, presented at several conferences, and discussed in the national media.