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12/05/2012

TOP STORY: Callers report wide range of suspected criminal activity to HSI Tip Line Unit

In Williston, Vt., men and women from the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Tip Line Unit at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are on duty 24/7, 365 days year, receiving tips and quickly routing them to where they need to go.

The Tip Line Unit responds to individuals from around the world who report a wide range of suspected criminal activity, including acts of terrorism, child sexual exploitation, human smuggling and trafficking, drug trafficking, bulk cash smuggling, intellectual property rights, and employment law violations.

Some of the callers are desperate and need help fast. Such was the case with a woman who called the tip line seeking help to get back her 9-year-old son. She used a smuggler to enter the United States illegally, but was apprehended and returned to her native country of Ecuador. Her son, however, was in the United States being held by smugglers who demanded $15,000 ransom for his release. Tip line staff forwarded the information to HSI Phoenix. The next day, HSI special agents rescued the child and arrested the smugglers.

Some calls are in response to a media outreach effort to help law enforcement identify and locate suspects. After an unidentified suspected child pornographer "Jane Doe" photo was posted on ICE's website and Facebook page and then was featured on television programs, including "America's Most Wanted," a series of calls began flooding in. Less than eleven hours later, an HSI special agent arrested Michelle Freeman in Salem, Ore., and the two children she was suspected of sexually abusing were rescued.

The tip line received more than 180,000 tips last year. Not all of those tips led to investigation. "Our goal is to raise awareness of the HSI tip line and highlight the types of information that are actionable," said HSI Tip Line Unit Chief David Palmatier. "We want the public and our law enforcement partners to provide us with tips that we can develop into prosecutable cases."

Staff assigned to the HSI Tip Line Unit review each tip received, research databases, analyze results, write and disseminate reports, and contact the appropriate program office for follow-up.

To report a crime, call 866-347-2423 toll-free from anywhere in the United States or Canada. Call 802-872-6199 from anywhere in the world. Crimes may also be reported through the Internet by accessing the HSI Tip Form.

HSI needs your help to protect the homeland.