DePaul Map of the Month

February 2016: Using Geographic Information to Identify Potential Movement Patterns of Sex Trafficking


Kelly Collins developed this analysis in GEO441/MPS552 - GIS for Community Development. Her analysis learned that increased utilization of technologies within the sex trafficking industry has enabled researchers to examine indicators and patterns of trafficking circuits. A key indicator of trafficking is systematic movement from city to city, or along a geographic circuit. The frequent movement of sex trafficking victims serve multiple purposes such as keeping victims socially isolated, evading law enforcement, and traveling to meet market demand.

Geospatial movement patterns can be used to identify circuits of trafficking activity that may help identify organized trafficking networks. This project mapped movement patterns of women advertised on escort and message services (EMS) websites within Indiana in a preliminary examination of potential patterns of sexual trafficking. Towards this aim, the maps depict the number of women coming from various locations (i.e., origin locations) to Indiana’s main sex trafficking circuit. Fifty-four origin locations were identified, with an average of 5 people traveling along each pathway. This map depicts pathways with two or more individuals (n = 34), which could indicate group travel patterns typically observed within trafficking circuits. Also indicative of circuits, we observe the majority of origin locations are near transportation hubs (i.e., areas with dense interstate highway systems). Future examinations of longitudinal movement patterns can be done to identify additional indicators and circuits of sex trafficking.