India: Community and police come together against trafficking of women and children

In simple terms, community policing builds on the notion that community interaction and support can help in controlling crime. Community policing requires partnering with the police and citizens and rests on the belief that law-abiding members of the community deserve participation in police processes. It uses different strategies such as foot patrol and problem solving at the neighborhood level. It has been practiced in India for a long time, for example during festivals the police engages civil society organizations, individual volunteers for crowd control and other activities like helping in communication and tracking missing people.

"When it comes to an issue like trafficking especially for commercial sexual exploitation, community policing will help greatly. We find many individuals who are willing to be trafficked or exploited for economic gain. When the community itself is vigilant then it acts as a force to keep things in check", says a police officer.

In many cases, the police pushes the women and girls back across the borders. Unfortunately, these girls are then picked up again by traffickers. In such situations, community policing would be very useful to ensure that they are not trafficked again.

UNODC in collaboration with Action against Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation of Children (ATSEC), organized a two-day training on community policing for police officers from different districts of West Bengal, India. According to the Additional Director General of Police, West Bengal, Mr. Thampi, "West Bengal is in a very vulnerable location because of its proximity to Bangladesh and Nepal. There is evidence of trafficking to India from both these countries. We do have laws in place and officers to implement these laws, but community policing can always further strengthen the existing laws to address this issue. There is need to either create a cadre of specialized community police officers, train communities or ensure that a police man devotes some time for community policing."

The two-day training, introduced concepts related to human trafficking, laws and procedures under the Indian Penal Code and the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act (ITPA), community policing and different investigating techniques. The training also covered post rescue care and attention to survivors, health care psycho-social counseling and mental health intervention. A police sub inspector who participated in the training shares, "when I came I didn't know what community policing was and neither was I so oriented to the issue of trafficking. Police personnel receive very little training but sessions like these are really useful and I am much more aware now".

In continuation with this training, other initiatives like involvement of local level village representatives, grassroots women's organizations, youth groups, teachers, medical personnel, parents and guardians are also being undertaken. Under this particular intervention the ultimate goal is to prevent vulnerable women and girls from being trafficked across the Indo-Bangladesh border and in turn, to protect them from getting victimized.

This initiative is supported by the UNODC project "Building capacity and expanding anti-human trafficking networks for improved support to victims of human trafficking". This project is possible thanks to the contribution of United States Agency for International Development (USAID).