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September 23, 2021Phoenix, AZ, United StatesHuman Smuggling/Trafficking

HSI Phoenix partners with City of Scottsdale to train employees on spotting, identifying human trafficking

PHOENIX – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is teaming up with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office and the Arizona Anti-Trafficking Network (AATN) to train City of Scottsdale public employees how to identify, report, and prevent human and sex trafficking. The program is part of the SAFE (Safeguarding All From Exploitation) Action Project launched in 2019.

“As a law enforcement agency tasked to investigate and combat human trafficking, we anticipate that this initiative will prove invaluable,” said Scott Brown, special agent in charge for HSI Phoenix. “HSI continues to take every step to better equip not just other law enforcement agencies, but our local community in the ongoing effort to fight human trafficking in Arizona and across the nation.”

Tourism is a huge industry in Scottsdale. Special events attract millions of visitors every year. Unfortunately, bad actors are also drawn to popular destinations to traffic victims. Combating the issue requires the involvement of the entire community, which is why the City of Scottsdale is working with HSI and their partners to offer this training to all employees.

“Stopping human trafficking takes the community coming together,” said Attorney General Mark Brnovich. “I am proud of our community outreach team and their work to help the SAFE Action Project evolve since it was first launched; now providing critical training to one of Arizona’s largest cities. Together, we are making a difference and helping exploited, vulnerable individuals in our communities.”

Starting this week, SAFE will begin training more than 2,400 City of Scottsdale employees across all departments including Human Services, Community and Economic Development, Public Works, Parks and Recreation, City Court, and the Scottsdale Police and Fire departments. Once 75 percent of employees complete the training, Scottsdale will become the first city to be SAFE certified.

“Scottsdale prides itself on being a safe community. We are a safe place to live, and a safe place to visit and do business,” said Mayor David D. Ortega. “It is very sad to know that these terrible kinds of crimes can occur here or anywhere. Working with the Attorney General’s Office to train our workforce will equip our staff to spot these situations and could help save someone who is being exploited. We are committed to being part of the solution.”

Additionally, SAFE will work with the Scottsdale Police Department’s Human Exploitation and Trafficking (HEaT) Unit to provide training to Scottsdale’s restaurants and bars on the warning signs of human trafficking and what staff should do if they see the crime occurring in their establishment.

“AATN and SAFE are thrilled about this initiative by the City of Scottsdale to train its employees and police officers on how to recognize the signs of sex trafficking,” said John Meza, AATN’s board president. “Teaching people how to identify victims is the first step in being able to combat sex trafficking, and we are proud to partner with Scottsdale as we make our cities safer for the most vulnerable.”

The goal of SAFE is to reach all corners of the tourism industry, including hotels, restaurants, bars, ride-sharing, airports, stadiums, and other places where large groups of people gather and travel. The program was launched in July 2019 at Phoenix Sky Harbor, in collaboration with American Airlines, and expanded to hotels and motels in January 2020.

The SAFE program kicked-off its hotel and lodging training initiative on Jan.15, 2020, with a training day for employees at The Phoenician resort. Since then, the project has been focused on educating destination marketing organizations, hotels, motels, and other tourism-related businesses.

Hotel Valley Ho was the first hotel in Arizona to receive its SAFE certification last year. Approximately 220 employees completed the training, including front desk, guest services, security, housekeeping, and additional support staff.

  • SAFE Certified Organizations
    • Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association
    • Discover Flagstaff
    • Arizona Office of Tourism
    • Visit Phoenix
    • Visit Mesa
    • Visit Tucson
    • Experience Scottsdale
    • Go Lake Havasu
    • Tempe Tourism Office
    • Hampton Inn & Suites Tucson Mall
    • Embassy Suites by Hilton Tucson Paloma Village
    • Comfort Suites at Tucson Mall
    • Focus Hospitality Management
    • Hotel Valley Ho
    • Doubletree Suites by Hilton Tucson Airport
    • The Tuxon
    • Sedona Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau

“Protecting the most vulnerable is a critical part of the police department’s mission, and this partnership aligns with our efforts to fight human trafficking and exploitation,” said Scottsdale Police Chief Jeff Walther. “No city is immune from these horrible crimes, including ours. In response, I recently brought a unit online that focuses wholly on reducing involuntary servitude and sex trafficking through education, enforcement, and human services. These alliances and the efforts of SAFE are key components in what takes a team approach to combat.”

Travel and tourism businesses can watch web-based industry-specific training modules here on the SAFE website. They can also request in-person training here. To date, the SAFE Action Project has trained over 1,900 Arizona tourism professionals and 16 businesses have achieved the SAFE Certification recognition. For more on how businesses can become SAFE certified, click here.

HSI is a directorate of ICE and 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 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 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: 09/28/2021