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July 18, 2022Birmingham, AL, United StatesHuman Smuggling/Trafficking

HSI Birmingham targets threats to public safety leading up to the World Games

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Birmingham conducted a four-week joint operation, as part of the World Games Human Exploitation Task Force, that comprised federal, state, and local law enforcement. The operation, dubbed “Operation Games STOP” (Strategic Trafficking Operation), targeted human exploitation-related offenses, drug trafficking, and other public safety threats in the lead up to The World Games hosted in the Birmingham metro area.

The operation resulted in:

  • The arrest of 34 commercial sex buyers, including the arrest of eight adult males for online enticement of a minor and traveling to meet a minor for sex
  • Six arrests on human trafficking related charges
  • The identification and aide of 15 adult sex trafficking victims and two minor victims
  • The identification and aide of 11 minor victims of online sexual exploitation and sextortion
  • The identification of seven adult and four minor labor trafficking victims, all provided aide
  • The location, recovery, and assistance of seven missing/endangered minors
  • Over 20 search warrants executed; the seizure of more than $30,000 in counterfeit goods; nine felony drug arrests; and the seizure of nine firearms
  • One arrest of a fugitive from Michigan on charges of felony impersonation of a police officer
  • And over a dozen outstanding state and local arrest warrants served on people encountered, including one for attempted murder
“Major sporting events like this routinely attract transnational criminal organizations and other bad actors involved in illicit criminal activity such as human exploitation crimes, drug trafficking and the sale of counterfeit merchandise,” said Katrina W. Berger, special agent in charge of HSI operations in Georgia and Alabama. “Working in conjunction with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners we executed a successful operation that disrupted potential threats to public safety, rescued many human trafficking victims and connected them with the trauma- informed victim support services that they will need to recover.”

Participating agencies include: the Alabama Fusion Center, the Birmingham Police Department, the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office, the Fultondale Police Department, the Bessemer Police Department, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, the McLennan County Texas Sheriff’s Office, the Jacksonville, Ala. Police Department, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, the Hoover Police Department, the Oxford Police Department, the East Metro Area Crime Center (EMACC), the Homewood Police Department, the Vestavia Hills Police Department, the Butler County Sheriff's Office, the Gwinnet County (Georgia) Sheriff’s Office, the Tuscaloosa Police Department, the Northport Police Department, the West Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force and the FBI.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and the DHS Center for Countering Human Trafficking (CCHT) also provided onsite personnel for the World Games and have provided enhanced capabilities and resources to these investigations, while also protecting both adults and minors from exploitation. Additionally, the International Association of Human Trafficking Investigators), F.R.E.E. International, Blanket Fort Hope, and G6 Hospitality LLC, provided valuable assistance to operations, outreach, and training.

The Junior League of Birmingham provided invaluable assistance by providing human trafficking signage across the Birmingham and throughout Alabama, sponsoring training, and providing food, water and other essentials to those personnel working long hours throughout the Games.

Victim services were provided to trafficking victims by Worthy2, Hope Filled Rooms, Trafficking Hope, The WellHouse, and HSI’s own Victim Assistance Program (VAP) personnel.

HSI prioritizes victimization crimes, investigating and arresting perpetrators who exploit children or engage in human trafficking. Equally important to the investigation and prosecution of human trafficking, is the identification, rescue, and stabilization of victims. HSI works with victim service providers and community-based organizations to provide resources and trauma-informed support services to victims.

Paramount to this mission is educating the public and key industries in Birmingham – such as hospitality, hotels, and transportation – on how to recognize the indicators of human trafficking in their communities and help dispel the myths about who can become a victim of this heinous crime.

HSI is a critical player in preventing intellectual property (IP) crimes and actively investigates the illicit importation, manufacture, and sale of counterfeit goods and pirated content that violates the copyrights and trademarks of rights holders. This effort is spearheaded by the HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center), including multiple federal and international partners.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 6,800 special agents assigned to 225 cities throughout the United States, and 86 overseas locations in 55 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

Updated: 08/01/2022