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US police locate 123 missing children in Michigan during one-day sex trafficking operation

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US police locate 123 missing children

Law enforcement authorities in the US state of Michigan have found more than 120 missing children in a major one-day sex trafficking operation.

The effort, which took place at the end of last month, resulted in the location of 123 minors, who were interviewed about potentially being sexually victimised or used in a sex trafficking ring during the time they were away from home.

Investigators from a number of local law enforcement agencies, including the US Marshals Service and the Detroit Missing Child Recovery Unit, identified three possible cases of sex trafficking during the operation, which was the first if its kind to be carried out in the region.

Operation MISafeKid was launched to locate the 301 children that had been reported missing in the area following weeks of investigations, and placed an emphasis on those who may have fallen victim to sex traffickers.

One homeless teenager located during the operation was taken by police back to their command post after it emerged he had not eaten for three days.

He was then transferred to specialist child protection officers for aftercare.

The operation also resulted in the discovery of information relating to the whereabouts of two missing children in Texas and one in Minnesota, which the US Marshals Service is now actively investigating.

Investigators began assessing files related to missing child cases prior to the beginning of the operation, gathering information on locations officers should visit during the effort.

In a statement, the US Marshals Service said: “The Eastern District of Michigan is fully committed to assisting state and local agencies with locating and recovering missing children and the prevention of their falling victim to sex trafficking.

“The Detroit Missing Child Recovery Unit is tasked with investigating and recovering missing children upon request by a law enforcement agency currently attempting to locate a missing child. The message to the missing children and their families that we wish to convey is that we will never stop looking for you.”

Back in March, US anti-slavery charity Polaris revealed that reports of human trafficking received by its national hotline and SMS service rose by 13% last year, with the majority of calls relating to concerns that victims were being forced to sell sex against their will.

Of the 10,615 victims of trafficking or modern slavery identified by Polaris last year, 2,762 were children.

One of top five risk factors identified by Polaris among victims of human trafficking last year was involvement in the child welfare system.

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Interpol, UNODC and WCO hold global conference on detecting illicit trafficking by air

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illicit trafficking by air

Interpol and its partners are holding an international conference at its headquarters in the French city of Lyon on the illicit trafficking of goods by air.

The three-day event, which is being attended by 90 delegates from national law enforcement bodies and international organisations, is being jointly held in cooperation with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Customs Organisation (WCO).

Intended to help strengthen the capacities of law enforcement agencies working at international airports across the world, attendees are using the conference to discuss the detection and interception of drugs and other illicit goods, as well as how to safely detain high-risk passengers.

The event brings together airports from countries across Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Middle East that participate in the multi-agency AIRCOP initiative, as well as trainers and mentors from collaborating national law enforcement agencies, and representatives from the private sector.

Delegates at the conference were told how the collective efforts of AIRCOP participants have to date resulted in the seizure of eight tons of cocaine, 422kgs of heroin, six tons of cannabis, more than two tons of methamphetamine, nearly 10 tons of tobacco products, and more than 13 tons of bogus pharmaceuticals.

National AIRCOP focal points have also been responsible for the confiscation of 1.2 tons of pangolin scales, $14.5 million in undeclared banknotes, and 1.4 tons of illicit drug precursors such as ephedrine and phenacetine.

AIRCOP Joint Air Interdiction Task Forces (JAITFs) have also intercepted terrorist fighters, two people wanted on Interpol and FBI red notices, and suspected human trafficking victims.

Opening the event, Ana Hinojosa, WCO Director of Compliance and Facilitation, praised the achievements made by AIRCOP participants and their partner agencies, noting how customs officers’ skills help provide unique opportunities for effective coordinated enforcement efforts.

“It is heartening to see that the important role of customs officers, in these types of law enforcements efforts, is recognised by the global community,” she said.

Urging participants at the conference to work together and capitalise on seizures made at airports the world over to strike at the heart of organised criminal syndicates that smuggle illicit goods by air, Interpol Executive Director of Police Services Tim Morris said: “If we limit ourselves to seizures, we can never identify or disrupt the criminal organised networks behind them.

“We would only be scratching the surface of this multi-billion-dollar criminal industry.”

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Grindr and Tinder providing paedophiles with easy access to UK children, report claims

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Grindr and Tinder providing paedophiles with easy access to UK children

Dating platforms Tinder and Grindr will be asked to explain to UK lawmakers how they protect children after an investigation conducted by the Sunday Times this weekend revealed that minors are being put at risk of sexual exploitation by the apps.

In a story that featured on the front page of the paper yesterday, the Times told readers that it had discovered that British investigators have probed over 30 cases of child rape since 2015 in which victims were attacked after they bypassed age checks on the dating platforms.

Police documents seen by the paper after it submitted a freedom of information request reveal that insufficient age restrictions put in place by dating platforms used by millions of people worldwide are offering paedophiles easy access to children in the UK, who are able to set up profiles on the apps with few age checks.

In one incident, a 13-year-old boy is said to have been either raped or sexually abused by at least 21 men after his abusers got in touch with him through Grindr.

Other cases uncovered by the paper involved children as young as eight being exposed to grooming, kidnapping and violent sexual assault through dating apps.

Responding to the paper’s findings, UK Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said he found its revelations “truly shocking”, and promised that he would write to the companies behind these dating platforms to demand information on what they are doing to make sure children are safe.

In a statement, Grindr said: “Any account of sexual abuse or other illegal behaviour is troubling to us as well as a clear violation of our terms of service.

“Our team is constantly working to improve our digital and human screening tools to prevent and remove improper underage use of our app.”

A Tinder spokesperson said: “We utilise a network of industry-leading automated and manual moderation and review tools, systems and processes – and spend millions of dollars annually – to prevent, monitor and remove minors and other inappropriate behaviour from our app. We don’t want minors on Tinder.”

Crimes linked to dating apps such as Tinder and Grindr are reported to have been on the rise for some years now, raising questions as to whether the companies behind them are doing enough to crack down on illegal activity carried out through their networks.

Back in January 2016, the Press Association reported that police had revealed that crimes potentially linked to Tinder and Grindr had risen more than sevenfold over the preceding two years.

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Maritime crime on the rise as pirates become more sophisticated at exploiting lawless oceans, UN cautions

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maritime crime on the rise

The UN has warned that maritime crime and piracy are on the rise across the globe, with organised criminal groups taking advantage of “jurisdiction and enforcement” challenges on the high seas.

Addressing the Security Council in New York by video link from Vienna on Tuesday, UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) boss Yury Fedotov noted that the majority of the world’s oceans lay outside of single state criminal jurisdictions, making it easier for criminals to operate at sea.

Noting the links between maritime crime and other illegal activities such as people smuggling and terrorism, Fedotov told the Council how UNODC’s counter-piracy programme has grown following the success its efforts off the coast of Somalia, which has been plagued by crimes such as piracy, robbery and smuggling for many years.

As well as helping authorities in Somali deal with the threat posed by piracy, Fedotov explained how UNODC is also assisting countries including the Seychelles and Kenya as they attempt to tackle high seas crimes including migrant trafficking, drug smuggling, armed robbery and illegal fishing.

“All our work at sea, where jurisdiction is complex – crime is often committed unseen and enforcement is difficult – builds on UNODC s long experience and research expertise in addressing all forms of organized crime, terrorism and corruption”, he said.

Fedotov went on to stress the importance of all UN member states ratifying and implementing international commitments, such as the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and its protocols, as well as ensuring the provision of technical assistance to law enforcement agencies that deal with maritime crime.

Also addressing the Security Council on Tuesday, Philippines Representative Kira Christianne Azucena warned that maritime crime and piracy are transnational threats that require a global coordinated response.

She said that the Security Council and UN member states have a shared responsibility to battle the threat posed by maritime crime through the enhancement of a range of actions, including increased international cooperation, the strengthening of law enforcement agencies’ ability to tackle the issue, and the adherence of member states to the Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and its protocols.

Arguing that marine security is fundamental to the health of African economies, and that piracy and marine crime hold back development, UK Representative Karen Pierce said: “The United Kingdom wants to support the region by sharing its own expertise; it looks forward to working even more closely to build indigenous capabilities to address organised crime, from the point of arrest to prosecution, to help create a deterrent.”

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