Standing Guard to Stop Trafficking: Inside the Asservo Project

Human trafficking is currently the fastest-growing criminal activity worldwide, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. This global epidemic consists of the exploitation of individuals of all ages and genders, including young children, for labor and sexual activity, and this $150 billion business is estimated to affect between 25 and 40 million victims.

With the rapid growth of technological advancement and access, human-trafficking has exponentially exploded. Buyers and sellers of humans can easily find one another now, and they can hide their transactions on the Internet keeping their activity out of public sight.

On both the local and national level, we have yet to see an adequate response to this crisis. Law enforcement is underfunded and understaffed in their efforts. The technology used by traffickers and the way in which they rapidly move their victims from location to location, including across state and national borders, make it difficult to track activity. Prosecuting a case is time-consuming and competes with other urgent law enforcement needs. 

Joseph Sweeney had years of law enforcement experience—he served as a local police officer, SWAT team member, Homeland Security Investigator and team leader for the U.S. Department of State’s Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program—and once he learned of the pervasiveness of trafficking in the U.S., he was compelled to act. He began reaching out to his over 25 years of local and national law enforcement contacts. He recruited a team of experts that shared his concern.

In 2017, he launched The Asservo Project.

The Asservo team has over 100 combined years of experience in the fields critical to the fight against human trafficking; since its founding, a groundswell of community support has propelled them forward.

In 2018, the group received funding to purchase advanced technology necessary to identify and track human traffickers; today, it works to expose these networks and collaborate with law enforcement in apprehending traffickers and recovering victims, who are then provided safe transport to non-profit partners specializing in victim recovery services.

Asservo, derived from the Latin verb meaning “watch over or guard,” is an apt name for the project, which seeks to combat human trafficking and sexual predators, support the recovery of victims and aid in the imprisonment of perpetrators.

“This is a topic that, unfortunately, we all need to be aware of,” said one Asservo volunteer at an educational event. “Yes, it is happening in other countries. But it is also happening right here. We all need to know the signs of a human trafficking situation and when to alert authorities. We need to protect our communities, and we need to stand up for those who can’t speak for themselves.” 


Debra Dion Krischke is the Founder of Pittsburgh-based "Inspired Women Paying it Forward" Giving Circles, creating space for women who have more in their lives to take action on behalf of women who have less.