PITTSBURGH — United States Attorney for Western District of Pennsylvania, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Pittsburgh, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Pittsburgh announced Wednesday the creation of a new anti-human trafficking coalition, Operation T.E.N. (Trafficking Ends Now), comprised of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies as well as non-governmental organizations.
Operation T.E.N. serves as an umbrella coalition for the 25 counties in the Western District of Pennsylvania, and is a coordinated effort aimed at ending human trafficking through education, improving cooperation among local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, and will enhance our ability to empower victims of human trafficking to become thriving survivors.
“Human trafficking is an affront to human dignity,” said U.S. Attorney Brady. “It is a form of modern-day slavery that knows no race, gender, age or border. Operation T.E.N.’s collaborative approach will tighten the net around human traffickers by providing a truly intergovernmental, coordinated approach to investigating and prosecuting these predators and their networks. Equally important, it will also ensure that survivors can more easily and directly access the services they need for a healthy, safe recovery.”
“The FBI depends on our partnerships to help us protect communities,” said FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Michael Christman. “We will work with our partners at every level to take those responsible for this heinous crime off our streets. It’s our priority to identify and recover child victims of human trafficking. They are some of the most vulnerable members of our community who have been physically and emotionally abused and don’t see a way out. We want them to know there is a way to start rebuilding their lives and human trafficking will not be tolerated.”
Combatting human trafficking is currently one of the Department of Justice’s highest priorities nationally and in our community. As part of the strategy, Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebecca L. Silinski, who is an experienced prosecutor and serves as the Human Trafficking Coordinator for the U.S. Attorney’s office, will oversee Operation T.E.N. and community outreach, serving as a resource that members of our community can utilize to directly access the United States Attorney’s Office regarding human trafficking.
While human trafficking can occur in a variety of scenarios and industries, indicators of trafficking activities often look the same across most cases.
Recognizing key indicators of human trafficking is the first step in identifying a victim and can help save a life. It is often a hidden crime, and victims may be afraid to come forward and get help. It is vital that ICE continue to spread the word and educate the public to be aware of the signs so that victims can be identified, and traffickers brought to justice.
In fiscal year 2019, HSI arrested 2,197 individuals in connection with human trafficking. From those cases, more than 400 trafficking victims were identified and offered critical assistance. The top five locations for human trafficking criminal arrests by ICE were Los Angeles (344), Houston (205), Atlanta (130), Charlotte (125), and Phoenix (124).
Specialists with the agency’s Victim Assistance Program assess a victim’s needs and work with law enforcement to integrate victim assistance considerations throughout a criminal investigation. 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 which is available for emergency victim assistance needs.
Bystanders play a unique role in identifying and preventing this crime. If you notice suspicious activity, please contact ICE through its tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or ice.gov/tips.