In my dissertation work I analyze online and administrative data on approximately 3,000 illicit massage businesses to learn about the users who frequent the establishments, and the social and physical context where the establishments are located. The research questions and design originated from nearly forty interviews with law enforcement and prosecuting officials in addition to other key experts in the field. The study compares Massachusetts, Texas, and Washington State as being three states where criminal justice agencies are taking proactive yet different steps to identify and disrupt illicit massage businesses. Guided by routine activity theory and using multi-level modeling and network techniques, the study highlights the key correlates for the distribution of illicit massage businesses across and within cities. The study seeks to understand how police and other stakeholders can alter the context in which illicit massage businesses are situated, with the aim to prevent and address potential human trafficking and other crimes in these venues. 





Spatial, Geographic and Network Features of Crime:

The Case of Illicit Massage Businesses



Dr. Amy Farrell - Criminology and Criminal Justice, Northeastern University

Committee Members: 

Dr. Anthony Braga - Criminology and Criminal Justice, Northeastern University

Dr. Nick Beauchamp - Political Science and Network Science Institute,

Northeastern University

Dr. Andrew Papachristos - Sociology, Northwestern University



Other Research Projects


Risk Factors to Commercial Sexual Exploitation of At-Risk Youth

Using data from a child welfare agency, this study seeks to understand what determines that youth with a range of different childhood adversities experience commercial sexual exploitation. Predictive modeling is utilized to address the limitations of traditional techniques related to multicollinearity of risk factors and selection bias. Findings point to a select set of key risk factors and are an important step toward early-intervention strategies. 

De Vries, Ieke, Matthew Kafafian*, Kelly Goggin*, Elizabeth Bouchard, Susan Goldfarb, Amy Farrell. Predicting Commercial Sexual Exploitation among At-Risk Youth using Computational Techniques (under review).

De Vries, Ieke and Kelly Goggin*. 2018. The Impact of Childhood Abuse on the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Youth: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Trauma, Violence & Abuse.


Automated Text Analysis to Describe the Problem of Illicit Massage Businesses

Building on data from the dissertation, this study examines word embeddings of indicators of human trafficking in illicit massage businesses. Word embeddings can help understand the meaning of and point to other potential indicators of human trafficking. The study utilizes these indicators to call upon a responsibility of a general public that works, lives, or potentially frequents illicit massage businesses. 

De Vries, Ieke and Jason Radford. Automated Text Analysis to Present the Problem of Illicit Massage Businesses and Call upon Bystander-Responsibility (in preparation).

Public Responses to Human Trafficking

The American public is concerned about human trafficking and willing to engage in anti-trafficking responses such as calling the police or changing purchasing behavior in response to suspicion of trafficking events. Utilizing national survey data, this study examines the gender gap in willingness to engage in anti-trafficking responses and explores the role of concern in closing this gender gap. 

De Vries, Ieke, Amy Farrell, Vanessa Bouché, and Dana Wittmer. Gendered support for public responses against human trafficking (in preparation).

De Vries, Ieke, Connor Nickerson*, Amy Farrell, Dana Wittmer, and Vanessa Bouché. 2019. The Role of Anti-Immigration Sentiment in Public Support for Anti-Trafficking Efforts. Crime, Law and Social Change 1-19.

© 2019 by Ieke de Vries