HEBER — Details of the highly dangerous, lucrative and pervasive industries of drug and human trafficking took center stage at the second annual Drug and Human Trafficking Summit on Friday.
The event, titled “No Place to Hide,” was hosted by the SURE Helpline Crisis Center with support from the Imperial County Behavioral Health and Alcohol Services as well as Cal-Ema Sexual Assault Educational Services.
She explained that weakened economic conditions in the community often cause people to be more vulnerable to being lured into the drug or human trafficking trade as they become desperate for quick money.
However, the consequences can be permanent and deadly. SURE Helpline Executive Director Margaret Sauza shared with the audience how her son was gunned down at age 26 by drug dealers and that after his death, she realized that he sold drugs.
Imperial County Senior Deputy District Attorney Sidney Hester Sr. said crimes like the ones discussed Friday tear apart the fabric of the Imperial County community, families and relationships, and that criminals purposefully prey on the poor, young, uneducated and unemployed.
Event speakers such as Homeland Security Investigations Supervisory Special Agent Stewart Harvey detailed how teens are being targeted particularly for drug trafficking and underscored the importance of parents’ vigilance in noticing telltale behavior such as a sudden large influx of cash.
He explained how many drug trafficking organizations are strapping drugs to teen’s bodies when they cross the border or asking them to drive vehicles carrying drugs further into the country, even being recruited in class.
Drug and human trafficking organizations often target the more vulnerable people in society such as children, people illegally in the country or people with limited English proficiency.
How drugs or people are moved by traffickers also keeps changing with the use of ultralight aircrafts, kettle balls, tunnels and non-factory compartments in vehicles among the trends noticed in the Valley.
Summit speakers included representatives from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Border Patrol, the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, the district attorney’s office and the Consulate of Mexico in Calexico.
The audience included people such as local judges and addiction counselors who were encouraged to spread the message that the public can be the eyes and ears for law enforcement on these crimes by reporting suspicious activity, anonymously if they want.
Call the Homeland Security Investigations Tip Line at 866-347-2423 to report suspected drug or human trafficking.
Staff Writer Chelcey Adami can be reached at 750-337-3452 or firstname.lastname@example.org