A Burgeoning Economy


Debimageorah Howard is the Founder and Chief Learning Officer of CIMA Associates, located in Lanham, Maryland.  CIMA specializes in providing innovative training and management solutions to small businesses, faith-based organizations and higher education institutions.

The word “CIMA” has special significance to the company’s mandate.  CIMA is taken from the Spanish word “peak” or “pinnacle”. Peak service in the areas of criminal justice advocacy, human resources, organizational development, change management, and higher education administration, is what CIMA’s clients have come to expect.

Conversely, the letters of the word CIMA form the basis for the myriad of services provided:

C –   Curricula (Higher Education curricula creation in Workforce Development and Criminal Justice; Domestic Violence program development)

I – Investigations (Title IX, Violence Against Women, criminal/administrative inquiries and trauma informed interviewing)

M – Management (Professional Development/Talent Management training, Risk Management Protocols, Business Process Re-engineering, Higher Education Leadership)

A – Assessments, (to include standard operating procedure creation for: internal audit and compliance programs, quality control guidelines; Diversity and Inclusion best practices).

Deborah brings extensive experience in criminal justice, human resources, and higher education management to CIMA Associates.  For over 22 years, she served in various investigative and command positions with the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C. For the last 10 years, she served as the Department Chair of the Criminal Justice Program and the Deputy Title IX Officer for Brightwood College in Beltsville, Maryland.

The tenets of servant leadership are woven through the mission and vision of CIMA.  As such, Deborah holds membership in and provides direct support to the Developing Dynamic Self-Worth (Domestic Violence) Ministry, First Baptist Church of Glenarden; Fair Girls.org (Human Trafficking advocates); the Victim Professional Services Network (trauma-informed advocacy), and the Society for Human Resource Management. She is also the President of the (non-profit) Zonta Club of Prince George’s County Area Foundation, Inc.  The Foundation is part of Zonta International, whose mission is empowering women worldwide through service and advocacy.

Deborah received a Bachelor of Leadership Degree and a Master of Management Degree from Johns Hopkins University. She holds a Graduate Certificate in Higher Education from Johns Hopkins University and a Graduate Certificate in Human Resources from Kaplan University.  She is also a graduate of the Roper Victim Assistance Academy of Maryland.


Human Trafficking – A Burgeoning Economy


Deborah D. Howard 

April is Sexual Assault Awareness & Prevention Month. Additionally, the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) has designated April 3rd through April 8th as National Crime Victim’s Rights Week. Among the many victims of crime we commemorate each year, a certain segment continues to grow as it relates to the number of new victims and those who continue to be revictimized – those victims are the targets of human trafficking.

Human trafficking is considered to be the fastest growing business in organized crime. It is now one of the top three biggest criminal enterprises in the world. Drug trafficking (with average annual revenue of $380-420 billion) is unquestionably first. Depending on the data and making allowances for instances of forced sexual exploitation (which are grossly underreported), human trafficking is either the second or third (with $150 billion) biggest enterprise after counterfeiting, which is estimated to garner an average $350 billion in revenue per year. According to the International Labor Organization (a UN member agency), $100 billion of the $150 billion generated from human trafficking is tied to sexual exploitation.

What is human trafficking?

Before we can seek to eradicate human trafficking, it is important to understand what human trafficking is and more importantly, what it is not. Many confuse the terms “smuggling” and trafficking. They are not interchangeable.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement – ICE (https://www.ice.gov/factsheets/human-trafficking) describes the difference between smuggling and trafficking thusly: “Smuggling relates to transportation while trafficking relates to exploitation. Each type has unique strategies for recruiting and controlling victims and concealing the crimes”.

Other distinct differences include the fact that: Smuggling involves illegal entry to the U.S.; whereas trafficking can occur with people who enter the states both legally and illegally. Smuggling involves a person being aided with their illegal entry to the U.S., trafficking involves the non-consensual exploitation of a person typically through force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of forced labor, involuntary servitude or commercial sex.” Smuggling normally ends with the person arriving at their destination; trafficking involves ongoing exploitation and may or may not involve multiple locations. It must be stated, however, that smuggling may result in trafficking if the circumstances change for the smuggled person either en route to or upon arrival in the States, through threats, violence or exploitation.

Human trafficking labeled the “modern day slavery”, is an extremely complex operation; it is often insidious. Evidence has shown its tentacles reach into almost every field and/or industry. Conversely, because most people don’t recognize the signs, trafficking often hides in plain sight. While the scourge of human trafficking has been with us for decades, global awareness of this issue began in of all places, through the entertainment industry, with the release of the 2009 movie “Taken” starring Liam Neeson.

Most agencies/organizations classify incidents of trafficking into three major groups – Sex trafficking (involving women and children of both sexes); forced labor (also known as involuntary servitude) and debt bondage (where a person has “incurred” a debt for clothing, passage or food, and must work in a never ending process to repay said debt).

The Polaris Project, (http://polarisproject.org), a global “disrupter” of human trafficking, headquartered in Washington, D.C., has expanded that list to include a staggering 25 specific classifications of human trafficking, based on their analysis of over “32,000 documented cases of human trafficking between December 2007 and December 2016.”

Those 25 areas include the following:

Escort Services, Illicit Massage, Health & Beauty, Outdoor Solicitation, Residential, Domestic Work, Bars, Strip Clubs & Cantinas, Pornography, Traveling, Sales Crews, Restaurants & Food Service, Peddling & Begging, Agriculture & Animal Husbandry, Personal Sexual Servitude, Health and Beauty Services, Construction, Hotels and Hospitality, Landscaping, Illicit Activities, Arts & Entertainment, Commercial Cleaning Services, Factories & Manufacturing, Remote Interactive Sexual Acts, Carnivals, Forestry & Logging, Health Care, Recreational Activities.

What most reporting groups tend to overlook, however, is the measurable amount of human trafficking for organs. This criminal enterprise relies on a number of people (recruiters, buyers, medical personnel, transporters) and entities (hospitals, organ banks), to work in concert. Studies have shown this particular form of trafficking falls into three main categories: 1- Victims who are either forced or deceived into giving up their organs. 2- Victims who agree to sell their organs, but are inevitably cheated out of or shortchanged on the payment and, 3- Victims who are treated for a real or purposely misdiagnosed illness; whereupon the organs are subsequently removed without the victim’s knowledge or consent.

Identifying the signs of human trafficking

Two of the biggest indicators that you DEBORAHmay have encountered a trafficked person are the absence of activities we take for granted – freedom of speech and freedom of movement. Regarding speech – When conversing with the potential victim – are they being told what to say? Does the victim continue to look at the person accompanying them for guidance/permission, even when asked the most innocuous questions? Is the accompanying person actually doing all the talking for both of them, with the potential victim remaining virtually silent? Regarding movement (in a business setting) – Can the victim make contact or enter into conversation with people other than his/her employers? Is the victim allowed free movement to and from the building? Is the victim rarely left alone? Is there security personnel at the doors of their working establishment guarding the ingress and egress of workers? When traveling – does the victim have control over his/her identification and/or money? Do they appear listless or disoriented or hyperactive? (signs of being drugged). Are they unkempt but traveling with someone who is well dressed?

Other signs include but are not limited to: Older boyfriend or new friends with a distinctly different lifestyle; tattoos with barcodes or the with the word “daddy” (often signs of branding by pimps); signs of physical abuse (bruises, marks, cuts) or malnutrition; unexplained absences from school; overly tired in class; children dressed in a sexualized manner, the victim not appropriately dressed for the climate they are traveling to or from and; scripted or inconsistent communications with others.

While none of these things alone are definite indicators of human trafficking, when viewed in totality of the circumstances presented, one’s awareness should be heightened.

What’s in a word?

In the United States, variances in definition over who should be classified as a criminal or what is considered “criminal” behavior, has often complicated the enactment of effective legislation designed to combat trafficking in persons. This is particularly the case when it comes to advocating for children who have been trafficked. In a number of instances, states have been forced to enter the children into the criminal justice system as defendants (or respondents), because the child would only be eligible for resources and services, including medical/psychological treatment, housing (and in the case of illegal aliens), potential citizenship, if the child has been adjudicated criminally and was not solely in need of victim’s services. Amazingly, in the case of trafficking, this called for the child to be considered a prostitute (criminal), instead of one who has been prostituted (victim).

A change in the verbiage has brought about a change in the mindset of the judiciary and in the mind of a child who had been considered a prostitute and is now being considered a domestic minor sex trafficking victim. Additionally, many states have revised their definition of child abuse to include instances where children are trafficked and/or prostituted; thus allowing for treatment and services instead of adjudication and sentencing. See where your state ranks on the issue of non-criminalization of juveniles: http://sharedhope.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/NSL_Survey_Non-Criminalization-of-Juvenile-Sex-Trafficking-Victims.pdf

What’s being done to combat human trafficking?

In the last two decades, federal, state and local government agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), faith-based groups, the entertainment and hospitality industries as well as educational institutions have all made measurable strides in addressing and combating human /sex trafficking on a number of levels:

  • Airline Ambassadors International, founded by flight attendants, created an extensive training program in 2015 (which is conducted annually), for airline personnel and other travel industry employees to recognize the potential signs of trafficking.
  • The Polaris Project, as stated on their website “takes a comprehensive approach to ending modern-day slavery. The organization advocates for stronger federal and state laws operates the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline, provides services and support for trafficking victims, and works with survivors to develop long-term strategies to ending human trafficking”.
  • Hospitality Resources Incorporated, states “companies like Hilton Worldwide, Carlson Companies, Wyndham Worldwide and Accor are among those international leaders who have already signed The Code – the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct.  The Code is a set of six guidelines travel companies implement to put in place policies and programs to comprehensively and effectively address the issue of [child sex tourism and trafficking of children]”.
  • ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes), with offices across the globe including New York, has been devoted to ending the exploitation of children since 1990.
  • In response to the influx of visitors for the 2017 Super Bowl, Houston (the 4th largest city in the country), intensified their training, advocacy and enforcement efforts, which were chronicled on the city’s website http://humantraffickinghouston.org/. As a result, Houston has been heralded as an excellent example of how “community government” works together to combat an issue plaguing a city.
  • Zonta International, a NGO founded in New York in 1919, (with chapters across the globe), uses their rarely bestowed General Consultative Status at the United Nations to advocate for an end to childhood marriages and violence against women.
  • ICE lists on their website the following successful interdiction activities:
  • Trafficker Arrested in Cameroon

In Baltimore, a 10-year-old girl from Cameroon was brought to the United States for the purpose of domestic servitude and subjected to physical abuse and isolation. The trafficker fled the United States and was later arrested in Cameroon. The trafficker was brought back to the United States to serve a 17-year sentence for involuntary servitude and harboring for financial gain. The trafficker was ordered to pay $100,000 in restitution to the victim.

  • Sex Traffickers Sentence to 40 years

In Los Angeles, 15 women and girls were forced by a family-run human trafficking organization into prostitution. As a result of the investigation, seven Guatemalan and two Mexican nationals were found guilty of conspiracy, sex trafficking of children by force and importation and harboring of illegal aliens for purposes of prostitution. They received prison sentences ranging from two to 40 years depending on their level of involvement.

  • Traffickers Arrested in Hair Braiding Salon

In Newark, 20 young women and girls from Togo and Ghana were brought to the United States through a visa scheme, forced to work in hair braiding salons under appalling conditions, and subjected to physical abuse and threats. Six traffickers from Togo entered guilty pleas or were convicted by a jury for offenses involving forced labor, conspiracy, document servitude, visa fraud, transportation of a minor across state lines to engage in criminal sexual activity and alien smuggling.

  • Cooperation with Mexican Law Enforcement Rescues 24 Victims

In New York, an ICE-led investigation, in collaboration with the Government of Mexico, targeted a trafficking organization that smuggled Mexican women into the United States and then subjected them to commercial sexual exploitation. Twenty-four women were forced into prostitution at brothels on the East Coast through threats of violence against them and their children. The principal traffickers were sentenced to terms of imprisonment from 25 to 50 years each. The mother of the main defendants was arrested in Mexico and later extradited to the United States where she was sentenced to 10 years in prison for her involvement in the scheme.

  • Russian, Ukrainian and Czech Labor Trafficking Victims Rescued in Detroit

In Detroit, a concerned citizen reported women being forced to work against their will as exotic dancers. Ten women were brought to the United States through a visa fraud scheme where they were forced to work as dancers through threats of violence, sexual abuse and threats of jail and deportation. The investigation resulted in the arrest and indictment of nine defendants. All of the defendants pleaded guilty and their sentences ranged from probation to 14 years imprisonment.

  • Domestic Servitude Victim Rescued on Long Island

On New York’s Long Island, ICE agents arrested a husband and wife as a result of a domestic servitude investigation. The couple was alleged to have held two Indonesian females in their residence where they were forced to perform domestic services. They were found guilty by a jury of forced labor, peonage, document servitude, harboring aliens and conspiracy. The wife was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment and her husband was sentenced to three years. The jury ordered that their residence, valued at $1.5 million, be criminally forfeited in order to assist with victim restitution.

How can we help?

Get educated – The Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign, provides training and free resources. The McClain Institute for International Leadership conducts a yearly symposium for practitioners, human trafficking survivors, visionaries and other stakeholders. The Office for Victims of Crime produced a free “Faces of Human Trafficking” video series on their website. The Department of State issues an annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report which identifies global trafficking hotspots based on contributions and follow-up from employees in the United States and at diplomatic outposts across the globe in conjunction with host country governments, and civil society.

Get connected – Organizations such as Fair Girls, Shared Hope International, and others,

sponsor activities throughout the year. Work with a religious community to bolster their advocacy efforts. Organize a fundraiser and donate the proceeds to anti-human trafficking initiatives. Encourage teachers to include human trafficking/modern slavery in their curricula (particularly criminal justice programs). Discover your “slavery footprint”, by determining who picked the foods or made the clothing you purchased. The Department of Labor compiles a list of goods produced by child labor or forced labor.

This discussion is not meant to be all-inclusive. The manner in which human and/or sex trafficking inserts itself in society continues to grow exponentially. So too, are the ways society can become more aware of and consequently more directly involved in eradication efforts.


Airline Ambassadors – http://airlineamb.org/our-programs/human-trafficking-awareness/

Blue Blindfold – http://www.blueblindfold.gov.ie/website/bbf/bbfweb.nsf/page/index-en

Department of homeland Security/Blue Campaign – https://www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign

Department of Labor – https://www.dol.gov/sites/default/files/documents/ilab/reports/child-labor/findings/TVPRA_Report2016.pdf

ECPAT – http://www.ecpat.org/

McClain International Institute for Leadership – https://www.mccaininstitute.org/events/human-trafficking-symposium/

Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) – https://ovc.ncjrs.gov/humantrafficking/publicawareness.html

Shared Hope International – http://sharedhope.org/the-problem/what-is-sex-trafficking/

UNICEF.org/The Code- https://www.unicef.org/lac/code_of_conduct.pdf

Zonta International – http://foundation.zonta.org/Nepal