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INTERCEPT TASK FORCE CELEBRATES FIRST ANNIVERSARY


March 27, 2024


Sheriff H.D. "Gator" DeLoach joined other 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 during a joint press conference March 27, 2024, at the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office Training Center in St. Augustine.

 

One year ago, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Jacksonville, partnered with seven area 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. This 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 partnership has allowed an agency like ours, which is smaller with not as many resources to do vital work in combating sexual exploitation of children and human trafficking," DeLoach said.

 

Human traffickers target some on the most vulnerable people in our society, and use force, fraud, or coercion to obtain some labor or commercial sex acts from another. They sexually exploit children online, from online enticement to distributing child sexual abuse material (CSAM) by sharing photos or videos, to sextortion. Offenders who traffic in CSAM share photo and video files across the internet and dark web, re-victimizing 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 the 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. 

  

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 the course of 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 cyber tips 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 have a total of 31 arrests have been made 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. 

 

Locally, our detective in the task force has made 6 arrests on task force cases which included child pornography to an individual trying to solicit a local teen for sex. 

 

“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,” U.S. Attorney Roger Hanberg said addressing members of the task force. “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,  Putnam County Sheriff’s Office, St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, Nassau County Sheriff’s Office, Duval County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Attorney with the Middle District of Florida Roger Handberg, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

 

To report any information about human trafficking, child sexual abuse, or the trafficking in child sexual abuse material immediately the HSI Tipline at (877) 4HSI-TIP, or (877)447-4847.  Those who wish to remain anonymous can report information to First Coast Crime Stoppers at (866)845-TIPS (8477); or 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 at report.cybertip.org

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