A human trafficking operation in Marneuli might have gone undetected if police from this small city in the southern portion of the nation of Georgia hadn’t known what to look for and how to ferret out this pervasive and inhuman crime.

Only a month earlier, at the invitation of the U.S. Department of State, officers from Georgia’s Central Criminal Police Department attended training in combating human trafficking. Officials from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) provided the training at the International Law Enforcement Academy in Budapest.

Run for more than two decades by the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, the International Law Enforcement Academies (ILEAs) bring together law enforcement professionals from around the world to combat transnational organized crime, including trafficking and terrorism, through strengthened international cooperation.

Grigol Gogochashvili from Georgia’s Central Criminal Police Department was the team leader for a group at the ICE Trafficking in Persons Course in April 2018, part of the broader ILEA Budapest Anticorruption Series.

The weeklong course, which is offered 10 times annually across the five overseas ILEAs, aims to build the ability of law enforcement officials to monitor and combat trafficking in persons. The training covers victim identification techniques as well as best practices for how to work with a victim and get a conviction of the trafficker.

Specific topics include fundamentals of victim assistance, the cycle of violence in trafficking and the role of social media in trafficking, among others.

Carlos Ortiz of ICE, who has given anti-trafficking training at a number of ILEAs, describes the training as victim-based.

“There’s nobody — no part of the investigation — more important than the victim,” ~ ILEA instructor Carlos Ortiz

Gogochashvili did not know how soon he would use that training. Within a month of his team’s return to Georgia, the police department was informed of suspicious activity at a “hotel-type facility.” Gogochashvili recognized the unusual behavior of two women at the scene from his recent training.

“We got these indicators, exactly like the indicators we’d learned about at the ILEA training,” he said through an interpreter. Using procedures learned through ILEA, the department gathered information and conducted a covert investigation into the operation, said Gogochashvili. The police removed the victims and soon after made two arrests.

Gogochashvili said that what made the April course valuable to him was both the instructors and the participants “sharing hands-on experience that I would later use in my job. The trainers there were active law enforcement officials with vast experience in working with trafficking cases.”

ILEAs Worldwide Network

There are six institutions, located in the following cities:

  • Budapest, Hungary (serving Central/Eastern Europe and Central Asia).
  • Bangkok (serving Southeast Asia and China).
  • Gaborone, Botswana (serving the countries south of the Sahel and parts of West Africa).
  • Accra, Ghana (regional training center covering West Africa).
  • San Salvador, El Salvador (serving Latin America and the Caribbean).
  • Roswell, New Mexico (serving all countries worldwide that send officers to ILEAs).