The FBI has arrested 120 suspects after rescuing 84 children in a US-wide operation targeting human traffickers who force their young victims into sex work.
Operation Cross Country XI saw agents monitor hotels, casinos and truck stops, as well as websites on which traffickers advertise their victims’ services.
One of the minors rescued during the three-day operation was just three months old, while the average age of victims was 15.
The three-month-old was taken into care with her sister after being rescued in Denver. Their captor, said by the FBI to be a friend of the family, was planning to sell the pair for sex for $600.
The FBI-led effort, which benefited from the assistance of 78 state and local task forces, involved coordinated operations launched alongside several international partners, including law enforcement agencies from Canada, the UK, Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines.
FBI Director Christopher Wray commented: “We at the FBI have no greater mission than to protect our nation’s children from harm. Unfortunately, the number of traffickers arrested – and the number of children recovered – reinforces why we need to continue to do this important work.
“This operation isn’t just about taking traffickers off the street. It’s about making sure we offer help and a way out to these young victims who find themselves caught in a vicious cycle of abuse.”
All of the children rescued during the operation were referred for assessment to the FBI’s Victim Services Division or members of other local and state law enforcement agencies dedicated to providing counselling and support for victims of trafficking.
John Clark, President of the National Centre for Missing & Exploited Children, said: “Child sex trafficking is happening in every community across America and at the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, we’re working to combat this problem every day We’re proud to work with the FBI on Operation Cross Country to help find and recover child victims. We hope [the operation] generates more awareness about this crisis impacting our nation’s children.”
In a separate EU-wide operation conducted earlier this month, law enforcement agencies across Europe arrested 16 suspected traffickers after rescuing 34 minors and 1,072 adults from potentially exploitative situations.
The minors rescued during the EU crackdown included a child migrant who was thought to have been sexually exploited while travelling to Europe, children begging on the streets of major European cities and a mother and a son discovered under exploitation for domestic servitude.
Drugs, forged documents and a number of electronic devices were seized during the operation.
“The goal was enhancing…, the intelligence picture by identifying key networks and modi operandi of criminal groups, disrupting when possible, their activities in/around those hubs,” Europol said in a statement.
US citizens spent $150 billion on cannabis, cocaine, heroin and crystal meth in 2016
A new report published by non-profit research organisation RAND has revealed that US citizens spent almost $150 billion on cannabis, cocaine, heroin and crystal methamphetamine in 2016.
The study, titled What America’s Users Spend on Illegal Drugs, also found that the US cannabis market is approximately the same size as the cocaine and methamphetamine markets combined, and that America’s retail heroin trade has grown to become closer to the size of the cannabis market than it is to those for other illcit substances.
Some 2.4 million Americans used cocaine on four or more days over the course of one month between 2015 and 2016, while heroin consumption across the country increased by around 10% every 12 months between 2010 and 2016, according to the report.
The report noted that the introduction and spread of synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanyl had increased the risk attached to taking heroin and complicated researchers’ analysis of the market over the study period.
RAND discovered that the lion’s share of money spent on drugs in the US comes from a relatively small number of people who use illicit substances on a daily or almost daily basis.
Researchers also said that while national data sets on the consumption of methamphetamine in the US are poor, an increase in the number of seizures of the drug across the country and at its southwest border with Mexico between 2007 and 2016 tallied with a rise in usage over the same period.
The report recommended that the federal government reintroduce Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring (ADAM) to help researchers better map and understand patterns in the usage of illegal substances such as methamphetamine and fentanyl.
It also noted that wastewater analysis is another good approach for estimating drug consumption across the US, observing that such testing has been used effectively in other countries such as Australia, which publishes the results of wastewater drug analysis annually.
Commenting on the findings of the study, Greg Midgette, the report’s lead author who serves as an assistant professor at the University of Maryland and an adjunct policy researcher at RAND, said: “To better understand changes in drug use outcomes and the effects of policies, policymakers need to know what is happening in markets for these substances.
“But it is challenging to generate these estimates, and given that critical data sources have been eliminated, it will likely be harder to generate these figures in the future.”
Customs officers in Guinea provided with training on how to use Interpol border security tools
As part of its ongoing efforts to bolster the abilities of law enforcement agencies in West Africa, Interpol has led a border security operation in the region intended to highlight the importance of targeting individuals attempting to use counterfeit travel papers.
Operation Stop kicked off with a two-day training course at the end of July during which border security officials in Guinea were taught how to use a number of Interpol resources such as the global policing agency’s Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (SLTD) database.
The resource is intended to help investigators across the globe check the validity of travel documents in seconds, allowing them to quickly identify incidents of document fraud, detect individuals attempting to travel illegally, and crack down on illicit cross-border financial flows.
As part of the initiative, Interpol extended access to its I-24/7 secure police communication system to security officials at the international airport in Guinea’s capital, Conakry, as well as to other law enforcement units outside the Interpol National Central Bureau (NCB), allowing them direct access to the organisation’s criminal databases.
After initial training sessions, Interpol oversaw two days of live operations at the airport, which involved border officers screening passengers using the tools they had been taught how to operate.
Local officials were also encouraged to run passenger details from the previous month’s flights though the database to reinforce the skills and knowledge they had acquired.
After conducting over 23,000 checks, border force officers at the airport identified three positive “hits” against documents recorded in the SLTD database.
Harald Arm, Interpol Director of Operational Support and Analysis, commented: “Police are just one piece of the border security puzzle.
“Access to the right tools at the right locations, the skills to use them effectively and coordination with other relevant law enforcement agencies, must all combine to ensure countries can best protect their borders.
“Activities such as Operation Stop which bring all these aspects together and encourage cooperation nationally, regionally and globally will have a lasting positive impact on border security throughout West Africa.”
Earlier this month, Interpol announced that it had headed up a separate border control operation in West Africa that resulted in the rescue of over 100 suspected victims of human trafficking, including 35 children.
This followed a similar Interpol-led effort in the region back in April, which saw almost 220 suspected human trafficking victims being identified and rescued in Benin and Nigeria.
A quarter of all CDs ‘fulfilled by Amazon’ in US are counterfeit, RIAA warns
The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has claimed that 25% of all CDs “fulfilled by Amazon” in the US are counterfeit.
A recent sample purchase programme conducted by the RIAA, which represents major labels that are responsible for the creation, manufacture, distribution or sale of 85% of all legitimately recorded music produced in the US, also found that 100% of new “high-quality box sets offered for sale through eBay or AliExpress in the US were counterfeit”.
The exercise revealed that 11% of new CDs offered for sale on Amazon were fake, and 16% of new CDs sold on eBay were bogus.
Publishing the findings of its sample purchase programme, the RIAA said it had also observed the sale of fake “best of” or “greatest hits” CDs or vinyl that purport to be from major record label artists on these platforms, even when the labels in question had never released such albums.
The association said it continues to see a high number of incidents in which its members branding has been used without permission on multiple ecommerce platforms, including Amazon, eBay, Redbubble and Bonanza.
“These infringements not only undermine revenues from legitimate sources to music creators and owners, they also harm the reputation and goodwill associated with the artists, brands or logos at issue,” the RIAA said.
“This harm is exacerbated by limited and inconsistent enforcement by online third-party marketplaces and other intermediaries to address counterfeit listings and sellers of counterfeit products.”
Responding to the RIAA’s findings in a statement given to Digital Music News, Amazon said: “Our customers expect that when they make a purchase through Amazon’s store—either directly from Amazon or from one of its millions of third-party sellers—they will receive authentic products.
“Amazon strictly prohibits the sale of counterfeit products and we invest heavily in both funds and company energy to ensure our policy is followed.”
Last month, research conducted by anti-piracy and counterfeit protection firm Red Points revealed that the number of items buyers believe to be fake sold on Amazon rises by a third during the company’s annual Prime Day event.
Earlier in July, Amazon announced the expansion of its flagship anti-counterfeiting Transparency programme to France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, India and Canada.
First launched in the US back in March 2017, the initiative allows companies to apply unique T-shaped QR-style codes to their products, which can be used by customers, brands, Amazon and other participants in the supply chain to authenticate items being offered for sale.
- US citizens spent $150 billion on cannabis, cocaine, heroin and crystal meth in 2016
- Customs officers in Guinea provided with training on how to use Interpol border security tools
- Why drug trafficking cartels favour smuggling their illicit cargo in consignments of fruit
- A quarter of all CDs ‘fulfilled by Amazon’ in US are counterfeit, RIAA warns
- Canadian police target young drivers recruited by gangs to deliver drugs
9 February 2018
9 February 2018
8 February 2018
28 November 2017
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