Federal, State, and Local Authorities Announce Formation of Task Force to Fight Human Trafficking
United States Attorney Deirdre M. Daly, representatives from federal, state and local law enforcement, and social service agencies today announced the formation of the Connecticut Human Trafficking Task Force to combat commercial sexual and labor exploitation in Connecticut.
This Human Trafficking Task Force includes representatives from Homeland Security Investigations, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Labor, the Connecticut State Police and police departments from 14 cities and towns across Connecticut, including Bridgeport, East Hartford, Greenwich, Hamden, Hartford, Milford, Naugatuck, New Haven, Norwalk, Stamford, Stratford, Waterbury, West Haven and Windsor Locks. Additional police departments have been or will be invited to participate and are also expected to join the Task Force.
Committed to a victim-centered model, the Task Force will partner with social service agencies and organizations, including the Connecticut Department of Children and Families and the International Institute of Connecticut, which help to identify and report suspected trafficking and then provide needed support for trafficking victims.
“Over the last several years, it has become increasingly clear that human trafficking, and particularly the sex trafficking of minors—the cruel victimization of defenseless young women and men—is a form of modern day slavery,” said U.S. Attorney Daly. “Despite the best efforts of law enforcement, this criminal activity grows apace with the proliferation of Internet marketplaces where sex with children can be bought and sold. This task force dramatically expands our resources by bringing together a broad group of trained and dedicated federal, state and local law enforcement authorities that will operate across jurisdictional boundaries throughout Connecticut. We are proud to be working collaboratively with the Department of Children and Families and the International Institute of Connecticut as these organizations provide critical support by identifying victims of these terrible crimes and giving them the support that they so desperately need.”
U.S. Attorney Daly noted that, in recent years, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut has prosecuted more than 20 individuals for sex trafficking offenses, most of which involved minor victims. On Monday of this week, defendant Edward Thomas was sentenced to 210 months of imprisonment for trafficking 16 and 17 year-old girls in Milford and Windsor Locks. Yesterday, a federal grand jury in New Haven returned an indictment charging Jordan Anate of New York with sex trafficking of a minor for more than four months in Connecticut and elsewhere.
The Task Force will be coordinated by Assistant U.S. Attorneys David Novick and Sarala Nagala who will lead monthly meetings with task force members to discuss investigatory leads and case developments. In December 2015, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) will conduct a three-day training for a large group of police officers from participating departments and troopers from the Connecticut State Police. Law enforcement officers who complete the training will be deputized as federal task force officers.
“Close collaboration between federal, state, local and NGO partners is the most effective way to tackle the issues of human trafficking involving forced labor and the sex trade,” said Special Agent in Charge Matthew Etre of HSI Boston. “HSI’s victim-centered approach brings a unique perspective to the table that will blend well with the talented and resourceful people from our partner law enforcement agencies and local NGOs. Working together to go after the criminal element that preys on victims who are unable or unprepared to defend themselves is at the forefront of our public safety initiatives at HSI.”
“The FBI is proud to work alongside our local, state and federal partners, and today’s announcement of this joint Task Force should serve as a warning to all who participate in the depravity and exploitation of human beings for profit, that such behavior will be vigorously investigated by a group focused on their specific types of criminal behavior,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Patricia M. Ferrick. “We intend to use every resource available to seek out and shut down those responsible for human trafficking in and around Connecticut.”
In October, the FBI and law enforcement partners conducted its ninth “Operation Cross Country,” a nationwide law enforcement action focusing on underage victims of prostitution. The most recent operation resulted in the recovery of 149 sexually exploited children and the arrests of more than 150 pimps and other individuals.
“The most important thing the Department has learned in the last four years fighting Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking is the need to coordinate our efforts with all the partners we possibly can to ensure that we are being our most effective,” said Department of Children and Families Commissioner Joette Katz. “That is why we have worked with thousands of law enforcement officials—from the FBI to local police departments around Connecticut—as well as medical, clinical and education professionals to make sure we are all informed and working together. This task force will be another big step forward in realizing such an effective partnership.”
“We are pleased to be partnering with law enforcement here in Connecticut as part of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Human Trafficking Task Force,” said Alicia Kinsman of the International Institute of Connecticut. “For nearly 10 years, the International Institute of Connecticut has worked to protect victims and is committed to eradicating human trafficking in our state. It is a horrendous crime; one that exploits vulnerable populations and deprives them of their rights and freedom. But with statewide coordination of law enforcement and victim service efforts, we know that here in Connecticut, we have the power to stop it.”
“The collaborative approach of the Task Force balances society’s need to ensure that justice is done for these despicable crimes, while at the same time meeting the needs of victims, who in far too many of these cases are only children,” said U.S. Attorney Daly.
U.S. Attorney Daly encouraged trafficking victims, and anyone who comes in contact with potential victims of trafficking, to call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline at 888-373-7888. The hotline is run by the Polaris Project under a federal grant. Hotline operators are trained to identify potential trafficking situations, and will immediately refer tips to law enforcement. Individuals can also send an e-mail to NHTRC@traffickingresourcecenter.org.
Trafficking victims also are encouraged to text “BEFREE” to receive an immediate response and help from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.