Date of Conferral



Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)


Criminal Justice


Richard Worch


Juveniles in the United States continue to be arrested for prostitution even though the U.S. Federal law recognizes them as victims of sex trafficking. The purpose of this cross-sectional, quantitative study was to explore what factors law enforcement officers consider when encountering a juvenile involved in prostitution that influences their judgment on whether the juvenile is a victim of sex trafficking or a juvenile delinquent. Each of the 50 U.S. states has laws that address juvenile sex trafficking. The research questions for this study centered around the Trafficking Victim Protection Act (TVPA) and factors that influence officers' use of discretion when encountering a juvenile involved in prostitution. The theoretical framework was Lipsky’s street-level bureaucracy theory. Participants consisted of 197 full-time and reserve deputies in the Northeast and Southeast regions of a Southern state. A series of regression analyses produced estimates of the relationship between independent and dependent variables. Findings indicated that 70% of participants had received 0 to 3 hours of training in sex trafficking. Thirty percent of participants had 17 plus years of experience in law enforcement. The TVPA was established in 2000, yet only 24% of the participants were familiar with the TVPA. Enacting a new law or policy is only beneficial if those enforcing it are aware of it. The study’s findings may implicate positive social change by policymakers, local and state governments making sex trafficking training mandatory for law enforcement officers and creating a cohesive set of policies and procedures throughout the different agencies on addressing juveniles involved or potentially involved in sex trafficking.

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