ICE and 30 law enforcement leaders
announce new Maine Human Trafficking Task Force
AUGUSTA, Maine — During a ceremony held last week at the State Capitol, Governor Paul R. LePage issued a Proclamation recognizing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations’ (HSI) recently commissioned Human Trafficking Task Force (HTTF), in Maine.
Thirty law enforcement agencies from Maine, and two intelligence sharing partner agencies from Canada, have united with HSI to form the HTTF. To commemorate the commissioning of the taskforce Governor LePage declared September 26, 2014 as Human Trafficking Task Force Recognition Day in Maine. Nearly 80 Maine law enforcement officers from 30 Maine and Canadian law enforcement agencies partnered with the newly commissioned HSI Human Trafficking Task Force to combat this form of modern day slavery.
The following local agencies are partners in the HSI Human Trafficking Task Force: Aroostook County Sheriff’s Office; Canada Border Services Agency (Intelligence Sharing Partner); U.S. Customs and Border Protection – Office of Field Operations; Maine State Police; Presque Isle Police Department; and United States Border Patrol – Houlton Sector.
“I am glad the federal government came up with the money so we could send a deputy to this important training,” said Darrell Crandall, deputy chief of the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Department. “These horrible things are going on everywhere, not just in the back alleys of big cities somewhere else. In 2014, you would like to think that servitude was gone, but it is not. We will do all we can to protect those who need us most. This training and the cooperation of the agencies involved will make the detection and investigation of these cases much easier.”
On June 19, HSI Boston Special Agent in Charge Bruce Foucart approved the formation of an HSI Human Trafficking Task Force to encompass Maine. The HTTF will be led by HSI in partnership with the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Maine, and chaired by Resident Agent in Charge Jeffrey Stillings from HSI Houlton and supported by Resident Agent in Charge Michael Lana of HSI Bangor and Resident Agent in Charge Shawn Meehan of HSI Portland.
During the week of Sept. 23, the new task force members participated in the HSI Title 19 Task Force Officer training program, which was held at the Kaplan University campus in Augusta, Maine. Each class day began with welcoming remarks from prominent leaders in government and law enforcement, to include United States Attorney Thomas E. Delahanty II, Kennebec County Sheriff Randall Liberty, Augusta Police Deputy Chief Jared Mills, United States Senator Angus King, Oxford County Sheriff Wayne Gallant, and Auburn Police Chief Phillip Crowell. The 28-hour program allows state and local law enforcement officers to be federally cross-designated with HSI’s unique Title 19 federal authority, which will result in a unified effort to identify, respond to, investigate, and arrest human traffickers with the support of its prosecutorial partners.
Officers from the PIPD have been selected to receive training.
“We have offered Officers Bill Scull and Ryan Eagles up to the Task Force on an as-needed basis to assist with investigations where significant manpower is needed or geographical location is of importance. They will receive certain training related to their level of participation. This will obviously permit them to bring that training back to our other officers and the community,” said Chief Matt Irwin, of the PIPD.
Irwin said the training will be at no cost to the city.
“The training costs and any overtime costs associated with this endeavor are reimbursed by HSI, so the PIPD budget or the city budget is not impacted. Even better, their participation is optional, meaning that if our staffing cannot accommodate the absence, we can opt out if a request is made to use them,” said Irwin. “So, in the end, this partnership helps in every respect but doesn’t burden our department or budget.”
Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world today and occurs when a person is recruited, harbored, obtained, or exported through force, fraud or coercion for the purposes of sexual exploitation, forced labor, involuntary servitude, debt bondage and other methods of slavery.
The public is encouraged to report suspicious activity and suspected human trafficking to the HSI Human Trafficking Task Force through ICE’s 24 hour tipline, by calling 1-866-DHS-2-ICE. For more information on this topic, please visit the Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign website at www.dhs.gov/end-human-trafficking.