11/02/2007

Law enforcement learns to battle 2nd largest crime: human trafficking

Human-trafficking yields $9.5 billion a year in global profits

By Brent Whiting
The Arizona Republic

GLENDALE, Ariz. Human-trafficking not only is modern-day slavery but the world's second-largest criminal industry after the drug trade, according to instructions offered at a Glendale conference.

Victims of human-trafficking often are forced to work as prostitutes or are exploited in sweatshops, restaurants, agriculture or domestic servitude, federal officials said.

To combat the problem, law-enforcement officials and others need to "look beneath the surface" when it comes to identifying potential victims and perpetrators, experts said.

For example, if a laborer is prohibited from contacting friends or family, it may be a below-the-surface sign that the person is a victim of human smuggling.

The instructions were offered Tuesday during a conference at Glendale Community College attended by nearly 200 law-enforcement officers, educators and other officials. The daylong meeting was offered by a task force of federal and local agencies.

Ann Harwood, first assistant U.S. attorney for Arizona, was careful to draw a difference between human-trafficking, a form of servitude, and alien-smuggling, an attempt to evade immigration laws. She said they are different problems.

"Human-smuggling involves moving people, whether they be a U.S. citizen or foreign national, against their will and forcing them to do things in repayment of debt, under fraudulent circumstances or under false pretenses," Harwood said.

And it's a lucrative global crime, said Stephen Cocco, assistant special agent in charge for the FBI office in Phoenix.

"Human-trafficking, amazingly and astonishingly, yields $9.5 billion a year in profits," Cocco said. "That's the estimate worldwide, $3.5 billion of which is alleged to be generated in the United States."

Harwood cited one Phoenix criminal case that was successfully prosecuted last year.

She said that Jeremiah Ulysess Crayton, 28, of San Francisco, was sentenced to a 17-year prison term for forcing two Arizona girls, ages 14 and 15, to San Francisco, where they were put on the street as prostitutes.

One of the girls got caught in the scheme merely because "she had the misfortune of getting off at the wrong bus stop in Phoenix," Harwood said.

The instruction offered at the conference was useful, said Nancy Wonders, chairwoman of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northern Arizona University.

"There are a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings," Wonders said. "So it's important for people to be well informed about human- trafficking, what is known and how to identify and define it."

Copyright 2007 The Arizona Republic

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