Fighting Human Trafficking, One Community at a Time


August 3 , 2013

Source: news-republic.com

On Monday, July 29, 2013, the world watched in horror at 150 men in 76 cities across the United States were arrested and charged with holding teenaged girls against their will to work as prostitutes in one of the largest human trafficking cases in American history.

Im-Not-For-Sale-human-trafficking

The alleged perpetrators will be charged with sex crimes, but the systematic kidnapping and forced prostitution of young girls remains all too common in the world and across the U.S. In fact, according to the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, there are more individuals living in slavery today than at the height of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. This terrifying epidemic is robbing thousands of young people of their childhood, and most often, the victims are young women.

Fighting human trafficking has become one of the great civil and human rights issues of our generation. That is why yesterday, August 1, I participated in a convening of the NGO community in Washington D.C., to discuss the issues of trafficking and forced prostitution at home and abroad, and how community groups can collectively organize to raise awareness about and combat human trafficking. The discussion was organized by the United Way World Wide, and included representatives from the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services, among others.

At the Girl Scouts of the USA, we are committed to combatting trafficking in two ways: by building girls of confidence and strength who become leaders in their communities, and by helping girls organize and join other girls to raise awareness and develop Gold Award Projects to advocate against human trafficking and exploitation.

Throughout the Girl Scout Movement, there are girls doing amazing things on the issue of human trafficking: in Jupiter, Florida, a local Girl Scout helped enact state legislation that imposes tougher penalties on those convicted of human trafficking.

In Arizona, a Girl Scout developed a national effort to inform people about human trafficking, launching a program called “Girls Empowering and Mentoring with Support,” or GEMS for short, which helps girls raise awareness of the issue within communities. The group was so effective that a pilot program has been developed that teams GEMS members with Girl Guides in Honduras around the issue of sex trafficking.

Ron+Hosko

These are just some of the many things Girl Scouts throughout the country are doing to take action against human trafficking. But the story that will stay with me forever belongs a young woman from the Girl Scout Movement who was herself a victim of sex trafficking. She was born in South America, and sold by her own family for $1,000. She was one of the “lucky ones” who was able to escape that life, and eventually, found her way into our Movement.

When I think about what this remarkable young lady has had to overcome — the unbelievable hardship she has faced, and her iron will to rise above it — I am simply in awe. Through Girl Scouting, she found a family — a sisterhood that gave her comfort and strength, and propelled her to achieve. She found an outlet for expression, a platform to channel her passion into a project that built a library program that teaches Latino immigrants to read and write English.

This is what we do. This is what the Girl Scout Movement can help girls achieve. This is why it is so important that faith-based groups, government entities and community organizations like the Girl Scouts extend their reach to the farthest corners of our world. The scourge of human trafficking can be taken on, and it can be defeated, but only when we recognize that, at its core, it is a problem that must be fought one community, one girl, at a time.

At the Girl Scouts of the USA, we are proud to stand with those who are on the front lines of this battle. It’s a war we must win, for ourselves, and our daughters.

 

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Parental Child Abductions: When Custody Issues Lead to Violence


June 7 , 2013

Source: FBI.gov

Child Abductions, When Custody Issues Lead to Violence

An analysis of recent FBI child abduction investigations has revealed a disturbing trend: Non-custodial parents are increasingly abducting and threatening to harm their own kids to retaliate against parents who were granted legal custody of the children.

Child Abuse

“Unfortunately, the threat of violence—and death—in these cases is all too real,” said Ashli-Jade Douglas, an FBI analyst in our Violent Crimes Against Children Intelligence Unit who specializes in child abduction matters. “ Most non-custodial parental abductors want retaliation. They feel that if they can’t have the child full time—or any amount of time—then the other parent shouldn’t have the child, either.”

An analysis of all FBI child abduction cases where a motivation was known shows that custodial-motivated abductions—in which a son or daughter is taken against the will of the child and the custodial parent—have increased from 9 percent in fiscal year 2010 to 50 percent in fiscal year 2012. Sometimes the motivation is to convince the custodial parent to stay in a relationship; more often it is to harm the child in an act of retaliation. This trend appears to be on the rise, Douglas said. At least 25 instances of such abductions have been reported to the FBI since October.

“Our analysis indicates that children age 3 years and younger of unwed or divorced parents are most at risk of being abducted by their non-custodial parent,” Douglas added. “And the timely reporting of the abduction by the custodial parent to law enforcement is crucial in increasing the likelihood of recovering the child unharmed and apprehending the offender.”

 Quick Reporting Key to Child Safety

There is a common misconception that domestic custodial child abductions are considered a family matter that should not be investigated by law enforcement. In fact, when such abductions are reported to law enforcement, the child should be considered to be in danger—especially in cases when the non-custodial parents have previously threatened to abduct or harm their children, are mentally disabled, or are unemployed or otherwise financially unstable.

child_neglect_abuse

“The timely reporting of the abduction by the custodial parent to law enforcement is critical,” said Ashli-Jade Douglas, an analyst in our Violent Crimes Against Children Intelligence Unit. “That greatly increases the chances of recovering the child unharmed.”

Some recent cases include:

  • In 2009, a non-custodial mother abducted her 8-month-old son from his custodial father in Texas. She told the father she killed the boy to prevent the father from employing his custodial rights and in retaliation for his alleged involvement with other women.
  • In 2011, a 2-year-old girl was abducted by her non-custodial father in California. A week later, both were found dead. The father committed suicide after shooting his daughter.
  • In 2012, a non-custodial father in Utah abducted and killed his 7- and 5-year-old sons and then committed suicide. He was angry over not being afforded sole custody of the children.

“In contrast to international parental abductions, our analysis indicates that domestic custodial abductions are more likely to have violent outcomes for children,” Douglas explained, adding that a number of factors contribute to this trend. About 46 percent of American children are born to unwed parents, and 40 to 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. That usually leaves one parent with custody of the child.

Douglas offers a suggestion to help keep children safe: Custodial parents should inform schools, after-care facilities, babysitters, and others who may at times be responsible for their children about what custody agreements are in place so that kids are not mistakenly released to non-custodial parents.

“The other big takeaway from our analysis,” she added, “is that law enforcement must act quickly in non-custodial abductions to keep children from being harmed. It’s mind-boggling to think that a parent would hurt their child to retaliate against the other parent,” Douglas said, “but in that moment, they make themselves believe that it’s okay.”

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Europol identifies 3600 Organised Crime Groups active in the European Union (SOCTA 2013 Report)


April 6, 2013

Source: Europol

In the most detailed study ever undertaken of its kind in the European law enforcement community Europol has identified an estimated 3,600 organised crime groups currently active in the EU. The EU Serious and Organised Crime Threat Assessment (SOCTA), published by Europol today, found that international drug trafficking remains the most active organised crime activity but it also identified the emergence of new criminal phenomena, many linked to the current economic crisis and the internet.  These new developments are changing the nature of organised crime towards a model based around a networked community of heterogeneous, international groups.

europol

“A new breed of organised crime groups is emerging in Europe, capable of operating in multiple countries and criminal sectors. These groups are no longer defined by their nationality or specialisation in one area of crime but by an ability to operate on an international basis, with a business-like focus on maximising profit and minimising risk. They are the epitome of our new globalised society,” says Rob Wainwright, Director of Europol.

The 2013 Serious and Organised Crime Threat Assessment (SOCTA) delivers a set of recommendations based on an in-depth analysis of the major crime threats facing the EU. The report draws on significant intelligence collected from law enforcement agencies in the EU Member States, other EU Agencies, and Europol’s own databases.  The Council of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers will use the report’s findings and recommendations to define priorities for the next four years.

Based on analysis of the prevailing threats the SOCTA 2013 has identified the crime areas which require the greatest concerted action by EU Member States and other actors to ensure the most effective impact on the general threat. These threats include crime areas that have recently gained significance or were not regarded as priority areas earlier, but now stand out against other crime threats because of their impact on society.  The priorities identified in the report are:

  • Facilitation of illegal immigration
  • Trafficking in human beings
  • Counterfeit goods with an impact on public health and safety
  • Missing Trader Intra Community (MTIC) fraud
  • Synthetic drugs production and poly-drug trafficking in the EU
  • Cybercrime
  • Money laundering

The conditions of the current economic crisis and resulting changes in consumer demand are fuelling a shift in serious criminal activity.  Reduced consumer spending power has inspired counterfeiters to expand into new product lines such as commodity counterfeiting, illicit trade in sub-standard goods and goods violating health and safety regulations. In addition to the traditional counterfeiting of luxury products, organised crime groups are now also counterfeiting daily consumer goods including foods and medical products. The increased production and distribution of these goods have significant implications for public health and safety.

Meanwhile other forms of economic crime, especially fraud, have grown in scale and impact.  Missing Trader Intra Community (MTIC) fraud, which derives from a manipulation of the VAT tax regime, is responsible for the loss of billions of Euros each year in the government revenues of Member States, illustrating the extent to which organised crime harms the economy.

Money seized by German customs agency Zoll during anti-money laundering operation is displayed before agency's annual statistics news conference in Berlin

“The fight against organised crime has big implications for the EU’s ability to secure an effective economic recovery.  Through a recent expansion of the ‘black market’ and notable developments in fraudulent activity criminal groups are denying governments, businesses, and citizens billions of Euros each year in lost tax receipts, profits, and private income.  Stronger action is needed in the EU to close down these criminal activities and protect our economic base,” says Rob Wainwright, Director of Europol.

The internet is also a major driver of criminal activity, enabling organised crime groups to access a large pool of victims, obscure their activities and carry out a diverse range of criminal acts in a shorter period of time and on a much larger scale than ever before. The spread of the internet and technological advances have caused significant shifts in crime areas and the pattern of criminal activity.

The SOCTA 2013 report is Europol’s flagship product providing information to Europe’s law enforcement community and decision-makers about the threat of serious and organised crime to the EU. The report exists in two versions a restricted for law enforcement and a public version which is available in the Europol publications section of their website.

EU crime gangs find new ways to make money in bad times

 

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935% rise in child kidnapping / Abductions in 15 years


Source: TheSundayGuardian

While there is much hoopla about increasing crime rate in general, a report by a Delhi-based NGO, published last week reveals that kidnapping and abduction of children have increased by 935% in the last 15 years.

According to Twenty Years of CRC: A Balance Sheet, a study by HAQ: Centre for Child Rights that analysed the 2009 report by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the number of reported cases on kidnapping of children in India increased from 894 in 1994 to 8,945 in 2009. These numbers are even more disturbing when you consider that NCRB takes only the First Information Report (FIR) and not the Daily Dairy (DD) entries.

So is there an increase in the actual crime rate? Or is it that more people are reporting them now? A bit of both, but the latter is more likely, says Amod Kanth, chairman of the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights. “In the 1990s, other than murders, not many reported a missing child. So, if a kid was kidnapped, unless he/she is from an affluent or rich family and the case got media attention, it was never reported. That’s why most cases end up as DD entries,” he explains.

“In 2008-2009, for instance, the NCRB reported that 2,982 kids went missing in Delhi, out of which 368 were found. In about a few months, due to my commission’s insistence, an investigation was conducted in each missing case and we recovered 1,700 kids. Many of those cases were converted from a missing report to kidnapping. The courts (HC and SC) insist that missing cases have to be registered as kidnapping but it is done only if the family or parents of the child raise the issue,” he adds.

There is also another problem. Policemen are often accused of being lackadaisical in their preliminary investigation of DD entries. “An FIR is filed only after the police verify the facts of the DD entry. Most of the time, they do a hotch-potch job and close the case saying they didn’t find any credible evidence to pursue it,” says Bharti Ali, co-director of the Delhi-based NGO.

Kanth concurs and adds that registration creates accountability. “Senior policemen rarely sidestep child kidnapping cases. If there is a lapse, it is only because the system is obsessed with curbing crime through numbers,” he retorts. “If a senior officer files an FIR, it adds a number to the crime rate and that’s never a good sign. When number of crimes has increased, the legal system, senior bureaucrats that policemen report to and even the media hype the numbers, without understanding how the system works. Finally, the law enforcement agencies look like culprits.”

Ali also blames the infighting between courts and commission. “They argue about who is in-charge of the case and hardly interact. For instance, when the government locates child labourers, they’re sent home without producing them to the Child Welfare Committee. How can we track them?”

Moreover, when children from rich or affluent families are kidnapped, often the accused is known to the family. “If there’s demand for money, most families pay the ransom and don’t report the case. Their only concern is safety of the child, which is understandable but on the downside, the criminals remain unidentified,” adds Ali.

Poor kids are kidnapped often for trafficking, labour, marriage, begging, slavery, prostitution, etc. “I guarantee that out of the 8,945 cases in the report, at least three-fourth hail from the poorer sections of the society. Considering how time-consuming and expensive the legal system is, it’s hardly surprising that poor families rarely report a missing child,” she avers.

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