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The Issue

National sweep targeting human trafficking nets 15 in Atlanta area

[from Atlanta Journal Constitution – April 26, 2012]

Fifteen people from the Atlanta area were among more than 600 arrested this month as part of a wide-ranging crackdown on gangs involved in human smuggling and trafficking in 150 cities and in Honduras.

Police from Atlanta, Forest Park, Sandy Springs and Cobb County assisted in “Project Nefarious,” according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A variety of other federal law enforcement agencies also participated.

Atlanta has been targeted as a haven for human trafficking, with the FBI identifying it as one of 14 cities with the highest number of child prostitutes.

ICE declined to identify the Atlanta-area suspects but alleged that they were in the country illegally and said they were arrested on state and federal charges, including forgery, drug possession and auto theft. The suspects were linked to Surenos 13, a gang that is prevalent throughout the nation, said an ICE official, who confirmed his agency will seek to deport them after their charges have been adjudicated.

In all, 637 people linked to 168 transnational street, prison and outlaw motorcycle gangs were arrested between April 9 and Saturday, according to ICE. Of those arrested, 479 were charged with criminal offenses; 210 had violent criminal histories; 10 were wanted for murder; and 290 are foreign nationals.

Police also seized 52 firearms, 5,462 pounds of marijuana, 6 pounds of cocaine, $201,437 in U.S. currency and 14 vehicles, according to ICE. Those arrested came from 33 countries in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Europe.

“There is an immediate impact on the public safety realm when you are able to arrest and remove these types of individuals,” said Ryan Spradlin, the deputy special agent in charge in ICE’s Atlanta office.

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