CBP’s Air and Marine Crews Partner with ICE during Sex Trafficking Operation across 8 SE States
ATLANTA – U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Air and Marine Operations (AMO) concluded its involvement on Thursday in Operation Safe Haven, a multi-agency sex trafficking enforcement operation, which led to the arrest of 29 people in 13 cities across eight states. The focus of this investigation was an organization that coordinated the movement of Hispanic females throughout the southeastern United States for sexual purposes.
“This operation not only focused on arresting the criminals, but also on rescuing the victims involved,” said Jesse Wozniak, Deputy Director of AMO’s Southeast Region.
AMO, as part of the Joint Task Force – Investigations (JTF-I), became involved with this U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)-led operation in the summer of 2014. During the course of this wide-ranging operation, AMO crews across the region conducted investigative efforts in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson created JTF-1 in November 2014 to facilitate DHS component collaboration, such as that demonstrated between AMO and HSI during Operation Safe Haven. JTF-I strengthened the partnership needed for an operation such as Safe Haven, to include intelligence sharing.
Over the span of 15 months, CBP AMO aircrews from Jacksonville, Fla., Miami, New Orleans, Houston, and Buffalo flew more than 150 hours, during more than 38 separate missions, as part of this extensive operation. The aircrews used covert surveillance to track suspects and identified multiple target locations.
AMO aircrews were airborne during Thursday’s arrests, providing live video streams to both Federal Emergency Management Agency and HSI mobile command centers. These video link systems provided real-time situational awareness to ground agents and to intelligence analysts via CBP’s “BigPipe” common communications web portal. View the BigPipe Fact Sheet.
AMO ground team air coordinators from Tucson, Ariz., provided this feed to ground agents during the arrests.
Additionally, AMO agents from Jacksonville and Panama City, Fla., participated in the execution of Thursday’s search and arrest warrants, while Manassas, Va., Air Branch agents provided technical expertise.
CBP AMO’s Jacksonville aircrews flew the bulk of flight hours associated with this operation.
“Collaboration is crucial in a mission of this caliber,” said Daniel Meagher, Director, Air Operations at the Jacksonville Air and Marine Branch. “I am proud to say that our unique capabilities contributed to both the success of this mission and to the safety of all those involved.”
The U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia announced today that 29 defendants were arrested on human trafficking charges during Operation Safe Haven.
HSI asks that anyone who suspects instances of human trafficking to please call their tip line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE (866-347-2423), or the Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888, or complete ICE’s online tip form. Anonymous calls are welcome.
CBP’s AMO is a federal law enforcement organization dedicated to serving and protecting the American people through advanced aeronautical and maritime capabilities. Learn how AMO contributes these specialized law enforcement capabilities to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) efforts, as well as to federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement partners. View the AMO Fact Sheet for enforcement stats and figures.
View ICE's news release at ICE Arrests 29 People in 8 States.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.