- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A public awareness campaign designed to educate citizens and encourage vigilance to combat human trafficking within local communities will begin Monday, with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) asking the public to join the fight against “this form of modern-day slavery.”

Known as “Don’t Be Fooled,” the campaign consists of two public service announcements titled “Masquerade” and “Bird Cage” that will begin airing in four key areas: Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Washington D.C.

“Trafficking victims live under a crippling fear under the control of their traffickers whove filled their minds with lies,” said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Deputy Director Kumar C. Kibble in joining with the CBP effort. “We hope to reach and rescue the victims whove endured much pain and suffering at the hands of callous criminals.”

Mr. Kibble, chief operating officer for the principal investigative agency of the Department of Homeland Security, said ICE is committed to arresting human traffickers and bringing them to justice “by ensuring that they feel the full weight of the law.”

Bradley Myles, executive director and CEO of the Polaris Project, a Washington-based group that advocates stronger trafficking laws and provides help for victims, said raising awareness and educating people about human traffickers and the recruitment methods they use “is a vital area of work in the overall anti-trafficking fight.

“These evils are what CBP and our partner agencies within the Department of Homeland Security began to target with last years ‘No Te Enganes’ campaign and that we continue to combat with our new ‘Dont Be Fooled’ efforts,” he said. “New prevention-focused initiatives are needed, and this campaign ensures that people are more equipped with tools to prevent human trafficking before it starts.”

With an estimated annual revenue of $32 billion, or about $87 million a day, law enforcement authorities, government agencies and others say human trafficking is tied with arms dealing as the world’s second-largest criminal enterprise, behind only drugs.

ICE has estimated that 800,000 people are trafficked into sex and forced-labor situations throughout the world every year. Last year, the State Department said 80 percent of the victims were female and half of them were minors. It also reported that 17,500 people are thought to be trafficked into the United States each year.

The Justice Department has identified human trafficking as one of the threats posed by international organized-crime networks. It said in a 2010 report that global crime cartels were involved in Asian massage parlors in Massachusetts, Ukrainian criminal networks exploited janitorial service workers in Pennsylvania, and an Uzbek organized-crime ring exploited Philippine, Dominican Republic and Jamaican guest workers in 14 states.

The departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Labor are part of a Human Trafficking Enhanced Enforcement Initiative, in which specialized Anti-Trafficking Coordination Teams, known as ACTeams, have been set up nationwide. The teams bring together federal agents and prosecutors across agency lines to combat traffickers, dismantle their networks and bring them to justice.