Diplomatic Security Service Forges Partnerships to Combat Transnational Crime
By Special Agents Chris Inami and Cyrus Hung, San Francisco Field Office
The Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) San Francisco Field Office (SFFO) hosted more than 100 law enforcement and prosecution officials from 10 nations, Interpol, and more than two dozen U.S. law enforcement agencies at the second Transnational Organized Crime Conference from May 1-4, 2017. The event strengthened and built international partnerships between U.S. and international enforcement agencies combating transnational organized crime. The first conference took place in Hong Kong in 2015.
San Francisco is a major port of entry and a hot spot for human trafficking and other transnational crimes perpetuated by organized crime syndicates. Although the principal investigative focus of SFFO is investigating and deterring U.S. passport and visa fraud, these crimes are often connected to terrorism, money laundering, drug trafficking, human trafficking, and other transnational crimes.
Over the years, SFFO has developed strong working relationships with foreign and domestic U.S. agencies to advance the fight against transnational and organized crime. The need for collaboration to fight human trafficking was a key theme for the conference, a focus that supports the president’s Feb. 9 Executive Order on Enforcing Federal Law with Respect to Transnational Criminal Organizations and Preventing International Trafficking.
Law enforcement and prosecution professionals from Oceania, Asia, Europe, and North America presented case studies that demonstrated that the partnership between the police and the community is vital to dismantling international criminal syndicates. The case studies also highlighted that information sharing between law enforcement and prosecution officials of state and local agencies, foreign partners, and multilateral organizations has disrupted and dismantled international criminal enterprises and blocked the spread of transnational organized crime.
A panel of state, federal, and international law enforcement and prosecution officials underscored the same theme during the panel that discussed the need to collaborate at all levels to combat transnational crimes. Panelists discussed successful strategies in anti-money laundering, financial investigation tools, along with current technology to combat human trafficking.
According to the International Labor Organization, there are an estimated 20.9 million victims of human trafficking around the globe, and is an estimated $150 billion industry. As shocking as the statistics might be, keynote speaker and trafficking victim Shandra Woworunto’s personal story resonated most with the audience. A native of Indonesia, Woworunto graduated with a degree in finance, but when political turmoil erupted, she decided to seek a job outside her country. She responded to an ad for a six-month position in the hotel industry in Chicago. Her nightmare began as soon as her flight touched down in New York City where she was forced into prostitution. Woworunto eventually escaped and has since dedicated her life to ensuring a life free of violence and captivity for people like herself.
As much as law enforcement officials want to help, John Eustace, a deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, explained that no agency can do it alone.
“You hear stories like Shandra’s and you want to get right in there to help,” Eustace said. “We’re one of several local and state agencies that are combining to combat transnational criminal organizations and it’s about sharing best practices to get a handle on this. A conference like this gives us the opportunities to make the contacts and see what agencies and organizations bring to the combined fight.”
DSS’ conference provided attendees the opportunity to forge new collaborations with other international, U.S. federal, and local law enforcement and prosecution agencies. The new relationships have already seen criminal leads and intelligence sharing between conference participants in the fight to reduce the growth, and evolution of transnational organized crime.
Agencies and organizations represented included the U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Service, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Department of Justice, Interpol, Australian National Police, Sweden Police Authority - National Fraud Center, United Kingdom's National Crime Agency, Canada Border Services Agency, German Federal Criminal Police Office, Japan National Police Agency, New Zealand Police, Italy Guardia di Finanza, Thailand Office of the Attorney General, Federal Bureau of Investigations, Homeland Security Investigations, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations, Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, California Department of Justice, Northern California Regional Intelligence Center, San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, and the San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, and New York City Police Departments.