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  1. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)
  2. News Room
  3. Celebrating Task Force Milestones Combating Child Exploitation, Human Trafficking

HSI Tampa, Law Enforcement Partners Celebrate Task Force Milestones Combating Child Exploitation, Human Trafficking

Release Date: March 27, 2024

ST. AUGUSTINE, Florida — Northeast Florida law enforcement leaders announced the results of the first year of the Northeast Florida Inter-Agency Child Exploitation and Persons Trafficking Task Force (NEFL INTERCEPT) during a joint press conference March 27, 2024, in St. John’s County, Florida.

One year ago, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Jacksonville partnered with multiple Northeast Florida law enforcement agency leaders, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, Operation Light Shine and the Tim Tebow Foundation, to enhance efforts in combating human trafficking. The task force is a unique public–private partnership where nonprofit organizations provide financial, technical and other resources to law enforcement task forces dedicated to the fight against human trafficking and child exploitation.

“This unique partnership of federal, state and local law enforcement and nonprofit organizations has been working hand-in-hand very successfully over the past year,” said HSI Tampa Special Agent in Charge John Condon. “These task force members continually demonstrate their collective passion and dedication in combating human trafficking and child exploitation.”

Human traffickers target some on the most vulnerable people in our society, and use force, fraud or coercion to obtain labor or commercial sex acts. They sexually exploit children from online enticement to distributing child sexual abuse material, sextortion and sharing photos or videos. Offenders who traffic these photos and video files across the internet and dark web re-victimize the child each time the images of their abuse are shared.

Partnerships with foundations like Operation Light Shine will allow law enforcement agencies to better serve Northeast Florida communities and the many victims of human trafficking. This collaborative approach combines the experience and expertise of local, state and federal law enforcement professionals to enhance their ability to combat the difficulties and challenges presented by the complexities of human trafficking and child exploitation investigations.

“The work that you are doing is saving lives and it’s resulting in victims being rescued and offenders being brought to justice,” said U.S. Attorney Roger Handberg, Middle District of Florida. “There’s a phrase that we often hear — someone’s going to ‘hit the ground running.’ I just want everyone to take a moment to really appreciate the statistics that are displayed here today because what it shows is that the Northeast Florida INTERCEPT Task Force did not hit the ground running, they hit the ground sprinting. These are incredible results to do in a year when you’re standing up the task force.”

With many cases currently under investigation and in various phases of state or federal prosecution, the NEFL INTERCEPT Task Force agents and detectives have initiated 583 investigations since its inception. During those investigations, 85 search warrants were served. These search warrants targeted evidence collection from residences, businesses, electronic devices and suspect’s DNA. In addition to these search warrants, hundreds of subpoenas have been served for records related to these investigations.

In 2023, NEFL INTERCEPT Task Force members received a total of 663 cybertips for investigation from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. A total of 224 electronic devices were examined for evidence, finding more than 6.3 million images and videos. More than 75,000 images and videos contained child sexual abuse material.

The child exploitation and human trafficking cases made a total of 31 arrests on these cases with an additional 16 indictments. This has led to 21 convictions of defendants with 18 being sentenced to a total of 148 years in prison, including one life sentence.

The INTERCEPT Task Force has taken on additional types of cases, in augmentation of their core child exploitation and human trafficking mission. They assisted regional law enforcement agencies with proactive chat operations, hunting for those seeking out children online for sexual encounters, leading to an additional 53 arrests. Another eight arrests have been made on cases as diverse as sexual battery, video voyeurism, bestiality and animal crush video distribution.

“For the past year, my office has had the privilege of working with the Northeast Florida INTERCEPT Task Force to protect those victims and bring offenders to justice,” Handberg said. “There’s much that I can say about the dedication of the investigators and prosecutors who tackle these disturbing and often heartbreaking cases. But today I’ll simply say to them ‘thank you.’ Thank you for the hard work that you do. thank you for the long hours and late nights that you put into investigating your cases.”

Members of the NEFL INTERCEPT Task Force consist of investigators with HSI Jacksonville, Clay County Sheriff’s Office, the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office, St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, Nassau County Sheriff’s Office, Duval County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and U.S. Attorney with the Middle District of Florida Roger Handberg.

To report any information about human trafficking, child sexual abuse, or the trafficking in child sexual abuse material immediately call the HSI Tipline at 877-4-HSI TIP or 877-447-4847. Those who wish to remain anonymous can report information to First Coast Crime Stoppers at 866-845-TIPS (8477), report it to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children through their tip line at 800-843-5678 or report it to them online.

Last Updated: 04/22/2024
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