Monday, January 25, 2010

Human Trafficking

Part I: Human Trafficking
Interview with Chief Nicholas Sensley

It is an honor today to interview Chief Nicholas Sensley, my friend and former colleague in law enforcement. He is currently the top cop of Truckee (Ca.) Police Department, located in the beautiful Sierra Mountains a stone’s throw from Lake Tahoe. Our paths first met at Santa Rosa (Ca.) Police Department, where we co-served as police sergeants until he finally outranked me.

During that time, I watched Nick become a world traveler as his interests took on a global perspective. First, Nick joined the Pointman Leadership Institute, a faith-based organization whose purpose is to facilitate the development of leaders around the world.  He traveled to former Soviet Republics, Western Europe, Africa and Asia, and the South Caribbean where he and others worked to develop leaders on principle-based leadership and to fight governmental corruption.  

Then, I watched as he developed his own consulting company—Cross-Sector Solutions, LLC—a consulting company whose purpose is to facilitate the development and execution of comprehensive problem-solving solutions to the benefit of local communities.  Through his company he has served throughout Central and Western Europe, Asia, and the United States. As CEO and founder of Cross-Sector Solutions, Nick has developed into one of our nation’s top recognized experts on facilitating responses to contemporary slavery commonly known as human trafficking.   Nick was one of the original US experts on human trafficking and represented the United States at the Organization for Security and Co-Operation (OSCE) expert conferences in ViennaAustria as early as 2004 only 4 years after the United States passed its first anti-human trafficking Act (TVPA).

Currently, Nick is preparing a guidebook at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs on effectively combating human trafficking through multi-disciplinary task force models. This guidebook will be used by federal, state and local investigative agencies—as well as non-governmental agencies (NGO)—as a blue print for task force operations to ferret out human traffickers.  DOJ requested Nick author this document based upon principles he 
developed and taught in task force operations in areas like New YorkTexasFloridaCalifornia and in Europe.  Nick is currently a Management PhD student at the International School of Management in ParisFrance.

(You can find out more about Nick’s company, Cross-Sector Solutions by going to and click on the tab “Anti-Trafficking” for issues related to human trafficking).

Q: Nick, thank you for joining us today. Let’s start off with a definition.  How would you define modern-day human trafficking?

Nick: Let’s be real clear where I stand in defining this atrocity.  Modern-day human trafficking in all its forms is nothing short of being contemporary slavery.  Statutorily, it is the obtaining of any form of labor accomplished by means of force, fraud, or coercion.

Q:  How did you get involved in combating human trafficking? What opened your eyes to this problem?

Nick: In 2001, I was a member of a US delegation to a governmental conference on women and democracy in VilniusLithuania.  One of the primary topics of discussion among the participating nations was that of human trafficking. I saw disconnect between governmental efforts and the efforts of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in comprehensively addressing this global problem.  I had to become involved in helping to find a more comprehensive and collaborative response.

Q: Many people think this is a third-world problem. Can you tell us whether this is a real issue in the United States? Give us examples?

Nick: It is easier to believe things like this go on somewhere else especially when we offer clearer perspective by calling it what it is – slavery.  Most people want to believe that is an atrocity of the distant past.  Yet, I have witnessed a tremendous growth in awareness in the United States as evidenced in reports in the various media venues, movies, books, and public education and awareness events.

It is very real in the United States.  In the US it is estimated by some sources that there is an 85% chance that by the second time a teen-aged girl runs away from home she will be sexually exploited.  By the third time, she will be commercially sexually exploited, that is, sexually coerced or forced into prostituting herself.  I assure you, it is not a voluntary or willing act. In the SacramentoCalifornia area this is a rampant problem.  In February, US Congressman Dan Lungren (R – CA) is convening a group of experts in the Sacramento region to address this issue.  I will participate in that discussion.

Q: Arms sales, drugs sales, and other illicit organized crime endeavors make up a large slice of the pie in terms of profit. How does human trafficking stack up to these other criminal money-makers?

Nick: It is speculated that human trafficking generates revenue on the order of that generated by arms trafficking.  This is estimated in the $15 – $20 billion range worldwide annually.

Q: How does human trafficking occur within our communities?

Nick: It is important to be aware that human trafficking does not just occur as a sexual crime.  It occurs in many forms including:

Commercial sex       
Domestic servitude
Bonded labor or debt bondage (work to pay off ridiculously imposed debt)
Custodial work
Factory labor
Restaurant work
Agricultural labor
Construction labor
Servile marriage
Public begging
Other forms of labor
Various forms sexual exploitation including pornography

 Q: What might a person look out for as tell-tale signs of human trafficking in our communities?

Nick: The key is to not expect that a tale will be told or self-evident in the occurrence of this crime.  As you consider the list in response to your last question, we see the apparent innocuous level activities for these venues of human trafficking all the time.  We have to look beyond the obvious and consider the human element.  We must ask ourselves such questions that demand answers for how people are being treated.  Take notice of demeanors and unusually fearful or submissive responses to those in charge.  Signs of acts of violence.  High levels of control of movement, communication with others, and ability to make simple personal choices.

Q: Say I’m writing a novel where my villain or victim is caught up in human trafficking. What are some of the things I’d need to know about human traffickers and their victim? Can you put a face on this people for us?

Nick: I could describe a novel’s worth of descriptors.  You should not forget such human reactions to captivity and control such as Stockholm syndrome, resignation of will, surrender of hope, and even conditioning to a level apparent complicity with the perpetrator.  The victims often reach a point of not regarding themselves as victims and only remember the behaviors they have participated in that are statutorily criminal.  After a while, some victims are difficult to sort from their original victimization.

Q: If I was a writer doing research on this subject, what sources of information would you suggest I tap into to give the kind of background information needed to develop authentic stories?

Nick: Quite frankly, the best sources of real life incidents are found through law enforcement investigators and NGO workers who have dealt with the victims.  I qualify that by warning that they may not want to or have the liberty to discuss cases that have not been adjudicated, but they can talk in generalities that provide a wealth of insight.  If you are fortunate, they may be able to put you in touch with a victim that has granted them permission to refer them for third party interviews.


The next segment, Part II—Human Trafficking, will appear on Monday, Feb. 8th, where Chief Nicholas Sensley will get into the nitty-gritty of case investigations and the challenges investigators face in trying to track down human traffickers.

Next week, best-selling novelist James Scott Bell with join us on Monday, Feb. 1st, where we will learn about his most recent novels and his newest book on writing, The Art of War for Writers. See you then. 


  1. Good Stuff! I look forward to part 2.

  2. Finally, something to look forward to on Monday! This was very interesting...looking forward to Part 2..

  3. Thanks, Steven & Carol. Let us know here at Hook'em & Book'em if there are any areas of LE covered or authors you might like to see on this blog.

  4. Thank you Mark for giving some additional insight into what Nick is working on. As another former co-worker with Nick, I knew some of his endeavors in this field, but not really to what extent. Kudos to you for helping get the information out and to Nick for taking on such a worthy cause.


  5. Thanks, Frank. I'll make sure Nick knows. Thanks for visiting.

  6. Wow, this is great, Mark. Thanks so much to both you and Nick!


  7. Frightening that something like this could be happening (almost literally) in our backyards and yet we don´t know anything about it. Thanks for the info.