1st Edition

Human Trafficking Investigation A Practitioner’s Guide to Making the Case

By Kirsta Leeburg Melton Copyright 2025
    304 Pages 19 Color Illustrations
    by CRC Press

    304 Pages 19 Color Illustrations
    by CRC Press

    Everything you need to know to seek justice for victims and accountability for traffickers is in this approachable guide written by seasoned anti-trafficking professionals.

    Human Trafficking Investigations: A Practitioner’s Guide to Making the Case is a one-of-a-kind practitioner’s guide, written by and for people on the front lines in the fight against human trafficking. When you run headlong into the realities of trafficking investigation, this book serves as a convenient reference that you can turn to for guidance in moments of uncertainty and discouragement.

    Human trafficking cases can be built, and they can be won. How do we know? We have done it. If you take nothing else from this book, walk away with the certainty that—while complex, frustrating, even agonizing at times—these cases are not impossible.  The authors have personally worked and developed trafficking cases, tried them to verdict, and justice has prevailed. Now we want to help you do the same.

    This essential casebook distills decades of experience, and the knowledge of a dozen multidisciplinary professionals, to equip law enforcement with the practical skills to:

    • Consistently identify sex and labor trafficking,
    • Prepare cases that will go the distance through trial and appeal,
    • Locate and dismantle trafficking networks,
    • Partner with victims in the criminal justice process, and
    • Recruit and maintain critical allies in the work.

    Chapters offer practical solutions to thorny issues including generating leads when victims don’t call 911; providing immigration relief for international victims; addressing victims who are also defendants; recognizing and collecting evidence of force, fraud, or coercion; working effectively with partners from different disciplines; and building cases when victims are running from help. Honest, direct, and practical, Human Trafficking Investigations is the definitive implementation guide for investigators intent on developing human trafficking cases that can be tried to a successful conclusion in a court of law.



    Part 1: Foundations


    1.       Perspective

    2.       The Big Picture

    3.       Building with the End in Mind

    4.       The Law

    5.       Working with Trafficking Victims


    Part 2: Nuts and Bolts


    6.       Generating Leads

    7.       Interviewing Victims

    8.       8. Developing Evidence in CST Cases

    9.       Force, Fraud, and Coercion

    10.   Digital Evidence

    11.   Report Writing

    12.   Courtroom Testimony


    Part 3: Special Topics in Trafficking


    13.   Developing a Departmental Response

    14.   The Medical Forensic Exam

    15.   Immigration Remedies

    16.   Working with Victim Service Providers

    17.   Building an Effective Collaborative




    Kirsta Leeburg Melton is the Founder and CEO of Institute to Combat Trafficking, an organization dedicated to seeking justice for victims of trafficking and holding traffickers accountable. From 2015-2019, Melton served as the Deputy Criminal Chief of the Human Trafficking and Transnational/Organized Crime Section of the Office of the Texas Attorney General, and from 2000-2014, prosecuted traffickers, abusers, rapists, and perpetrators of family violence in San Antonio, Texas. Melton is responsible for several of the State’s first life sentences for trafficking and served as the lead prosecutor for the State of Texas in the takedown of Backpage.com. She has trained more than 30,000 people in person on human trafficking and been featured in multiple training films utilized nationwide. Over the past decade Melton played a critical role in the restructuring of Texas trafficking law and procedure and has been privileged to build and lead incredible teams seeking and demanding justice for victims and promoting cultural change.

    Melton graduated from Cornell University in 1993 with a Bachelor of Arts in American Government and received her JD and Master of Public Affairs from the University of Texas in Austin in 1998. When she’s not teaching, pondering policy, or prepping for trial Melton loves to read, hike the state and national parks, watch silly shows with her husband and kids and is relearning the classical guitar.