In the fight against human trafficking, industrial engineers can help

An estimated 24.9 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking. The majority of these individuals are tricked, threatened, or coerced into forced labor in domestic work, construction, manufacturing, agriculture, the food industry, or other areas. Approximately one-fifth of them are forced into prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation. Although it’s notoriously difficult to track, the industry is thought to be worth $150 billion.

Fighting human trafficking is complicated. Traffickers tend to prey on marginalized communities, where people have fewer support systems. Many victims have been misled and are afraid to come forward, or may not fully understand their situation. And those individuals who are able to escape may struggle to find housing or employment as they re-enter society.

Kayse Lee Maass, an assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at Northeastern, believes engineers have tools that can help. The same techniques used to model supply chains or plan media campaigns can be adapted to find ways to disrupt trafficking networks or organize support services for survivors.

“We have different industrial engineering or operations research techniques that we can use,” Maass said. “They haven’t necessarily been applied to human trafficking, but could potentially be expanded to address those issues.”

Most industrial engineering models are looking to either maximize profits or minimize costs. But for something like building a support system for survivors, Maass must incorporate how receptive a community might be and what biases might be affecting decisions.Read more at:

Learn more at:In the fight against human trafficking, industrial engineers can help

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