Southern California LE symposium keys on awareness

  • Published
  • By OSI Public Affairs

Office of Special Investigations Detachment 111, joined local partners to conduct a law enforcement symposium attended by over 100 LE professionals Sept. 15, 2022. 

The inaugural event addressed felony-level issues, along with other crimes that impact national security, said Special Agent Aaron Moyer, Det. 111 commander. The symposium highlighted trends that crossed military and civilian boundaries, such as human trafficking awareness.

Cynthia Zimmer, Kern County deputy district attorney kicked off the daylong event. Following her remarks, the attendees learned about military law and OSI priorities.

SA John Grabowicz presented a Det. 111 mission brief and crime statistics, while military guest speakers included Lt. Col. Joshua Frizzell, 412th Security Forces commander and Lt. Col. Evan Epstein, 412th Test Wing Staff Judge Advocate.

Later, Det. 111 opened the floor to focus on overlapping local, state and federal law enforcement partner concerns. A sobering, but necessary topic, covered awareness on human trafficking.

The symposium was an “innovative collaborative partnership, vital to combating the rapidly growing crime of human trafficking,” said Tyson McCoy, Kern County deputy district attorney, adding, “We are grateful to the Air Force for uniting so many partners to fight this horrific crime.”

Several attendees echoed McCoy's sentiments.

“Our detachment sees a variety of federal crimes. Human trafficking is a crime hidden in plain sight,” Moyer said. “Just like narcotics and gang investigations, awareness is key. We must proactively work with our local and state law enforcement partners to increase awareness and capitalize on opportunities to work together.”

For OSI, building partnerships in the United States and abroad is key, Moyer said. In addition, raising awareness about human trafficking is crucial for local and state law enforcement agencies in Southern California.

“The cases we tend see in OSI are Airmen and Department of the Air Force affiliates soliciting or pandering sex,” Moyer said. “Therefore, we have DAF members actively taking part in the demand for the supply of human trafficking.”

The event’s importance was emphasized by Kaila Brocksmith, OSI Center of Intelligence analyst, who provided recent crime statistics.

In addition, SA Domenico Fumarola, OSI Det. 531, Aviano Air Base, Italy, briefed case studies of human trafficking cases while assigned to the 10th Field Investigations Squadron, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.

“Education and understanding are paramount in the war against human trafficking,” Fumarola said. “No one chooses to be a victim; they are dragged into the darkness by medical, societal or social-economic issues. We are in the position to help these individuals and need to share resources to help all that we can."

“As Airmen, we receive special training on human trafficking, its signs and terrible effects,” Epstein said. “The law seeks to protect these victims while punishing offenders.”

From the local community, Angela Look, Kern County Department of Human Services, discussed human trafficking victimology and Michelle Heater, Program Waymakers Orange County program director, highlighted the importance of support agencies partnering with law enforcement.

Also attending was Vivian Cao, from the office of California State Senator Shannon Grove.

“As law enforcement professionals, it is all of our mission to ensure the safety and security of our community,” Frizzell said. “By OSI Det. 111 bringing the whole force together from across Kern County and the state of California, we learned together and built partnerships that will enable us to better secure and make Kern Country a safer place for everyone who lives and works here or is just passing through the area.”

During the event, the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force, an elite anti-trafficking unit, conducted training on the importance of positively connecting and supporting victims throughout the investigations, plus lived experience expert Angelica Zuniga shared her powerful story of breaking free from human trafficking.

McCoy closed out the event by sharing the successes and challenges of prosecuting human trafficking investigations.

In 2021, the Department of Defense totaled 108 human trafficking cases, combined with sex trafficking and labor trafficking. While these numbers appear low, most individuals lack the awareness of human trafficking indicators.

The DoD has increased awareness with education and training to address this horrific crime, McCoy said.

“It was reassuring to see partnership and enthusiasm from across the state at this event. By recognizing the signs of human trafficking, collaborating in our enforcement efforts, and understanding how the law holds offenders accountable, we can more effectively protect victims across the region,” Epstein said.

A major part of combating human trafficking is to demonstrate actions to strengthen the reach and effectiveness of services provided to all victims, and for law enforcement to exert intense, consistent pressure on traffickers, said SA Angela Skillern, OSI Det. 111, lead event coordinator.

“Human trafficking activities can harm the Department of the Air Force national security mission. It’s in our backyard at home and follows us when we deploy,” Moyer said. “As the federal investigative agency for the Department of the Air Force, we must address federal crimes that impact our force.”