Child Sex Trafficking Prosecutions Fall During Trump Administration
(26 Oct 2020) The latest available case-by-case federal government records show that in September 2020 federal prosecutors brought criminal charges against eleven (11) individuals for child sex trafficking under 18 USC 1591. Altogether in FY 2020, the federal government reports 180 new prosecutions where child sex trafficking was the lead charge. This is about the same number of criminal prosecutions as last year where there were 178 such prosecutions.

The number of prosecutions for child sex trafficking has significantly declined during the Trump Administration, after climbing steadily during the Obama years. Prosecutions reached a peak of 273 and 277 in FY 2016 and FY 2017, respectively. Since then, the number of cases dipped to 221 in FY 2018, and then continued to decline to less than 200 in FYs 2019 and 2020. Unlike many other types of crimes, the pandemic has not appeared to materially reduce prosecutions of child sex trafficking matters.

Criminal referrals to U.S. Attorney offices during this entire period are substantially larger than those federal prosecutors decide to file in court. Not only were the number of prosecutions higher during the Obama years, but the proportion of criminal referrals for child sex trafficking on which charges were brought was also higher. During the Bush Administration, 46 percent of criminal referrals were prosecuted. During the Obama Administration, that proportion increased to 49 percent. During the Trump Administration, prosecutors chose to file charges in 43 percent of cases.

When federal attorneys decided not to prosecute, about two-thirds of the time the reason given in FY 2020 was that there was insufficient evidence. Other cases were declined citing the need to prioritize federal resources and interests.

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