HSI New Orleans participates in human trafficking symposium
NEW ORLEANS — As part of its ongoing outreach initiative for Human Trafficking Awareness Month, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) New Orleans participated in the Greater New Orleans Human Trafficking Task Force law enforcement symposium Jan. 13.
The symposium coincided with National Human Trafficking Awareness Day and Wear Blue Day. More than a dozen law enforcement agencies, nongovernmental organizations and community partners participated.
Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery involving the illegal trade of human beings for the purpose of exploitation or commercial gain. Human trafficking is a detriment to our economy, the safety and health of our nation, and the very dignity of our society.
Special Agent Brittany Theriot and Victim Assistance Specialist Jason Ledford, both with HSI New Orleans, spoke at the event and participated in a panel discussion.
“There are a lot of challenges when it comes to human trafficking investigations. Your evidence is a person, and they are often on a roller coaster of emotions the entire time,” said Theriot. “What we have learned at HSI, is that a victim in crisis cannot be turned into a credible witness. We are asking them to talk about some of the hardest things they’ve ever been through, and they may not be ready, and we have to be ok with that. The little things like a shower, safe place, food, help provide stability.”
Human Trafficking Awareness month offers a unique opportunity to build on existing momentum to eliminate this crime and ensure all people are treated with dignity and respect. Throughout January, law enforcement works with communities across the nation to promote the work being done to prevent human trafficking and support those who have fallen victim to these crimes. The symposium also hosted several DHS agencies including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Citizens and Immigrations Services.
“Through Blue Campaign events like this, DHS agencies are able to educate the public and our law enforcement partners of indicators of Human Trafficking. By leveraging these relationships, we create a force multiplier when combating Human Trafficking,” said Assistant Field Office Director Larry Adams, ERO New Orleans.
In fiscal year 2022, HSI arrested 2,360 individuals in connection with human trafficking. From those cases, officials identified more than 700 trafficking victims and offered them critical assistance.
Specialists with the agency’s Victim Assistance Program assess victims’ needs and work with law enforcement to integrate victim assistance considerations throughout criminal investigations. HSI can also assist a victim in getting a short-term immigration relief called continued presence, which is available only upon request by law enforcement. In the absence of other resources, DHS has an emergency assistance fund for urgent victim assistance needs.
Nationwide, HSI participates in a variety of human trafficking awareness events in January and throughout the year. Though human trafficking can occur in a variety of scenarios and industries, indicators of trafficking activities often look similar across cases.
Recognizing key indicators of human trafficking is the first step in identifying victims and can help save lives. Human trafficking is often a hidden crime, and victims may be afraid to come forward and get help. HSI must continue to spread the word and educate the public on signs of trafficking so authorities can identify victims and bring traffickers to justice.
HSI also works with its law enforcement partners to dismantle the global criminal infrastructure that enables in human trafficking. The agency accomplishes this mission by making full use of its authorities and expertise, stripping away assets and profit incentive, collaborating with U.S. and foreign partners to attack networks worldwide, and working in partnership with nongovernmental organizations to identify and aid trafficking victims.
Bystanders play a unique role in identifying and preventing this crime. If you notice suspicious activity, please contact the tip line at 866-DHS-2423 or ice.gov/tips.
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 more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 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.