DELTA team investigators are western volunteers who are vetted and deployed to help augment the work of local investigative teams like ALPHA team in SE Asia. After helping with an investigation, operatives are asked to provide case reports as a critical component of their investigative work and deployment process.
The following article was taken directly from a DELTA operative after a night of investigation. Creative liberties were taken throughout to better communicate his personal experience and internal dialogue. Specific operation details have been removed or made representative for the protection of our investigators and the victims involved.
I wake up the morning after the investigation and crack open my laptop, the last thing I want to do this morning is create a report. I would much rather bust down the door of that bar and make sure that no more exploitation could happen at the hands of that trafficker. But in order to make that a reality, I need to work with my colleagues to create a report that is solid enough to present to police. Only then will justice come for these girls. I begin recounting my actions throughout last night and start to compile the details I learned about Sup* during my time with her...
Type of Trafficking: sex trafficking
20:30 OPERATION BRIEFING HQ
Two other operatives and I had just arrived in SE Asia on our deployment. We had been prepped on the deployment objectives, knew what to expect, and were ready for our briefing from ALPHA team.
Before we arrived in SE Asia, ALPHA team received word that a nearby bar was possibly selling underaged girls for sex—an immediate sign of human trafficking. ALPHA team compiled the core details of the case, but needed help confirming the information they received about this location. We were brought in to gather that evidence seeing that this location served mainly Western clientele.
After several days of gear and tactical training, ALPHA Team, local national operatives, briefed us on our deployment objectives before we headed over to the target location.
21:30 ARRIVE AT TARGET LOCATION
I informed command that we had arrived before I briefly scanned the room; it didn’t take me long to find a possible victim.
I spotted Sup, whom I guessed to be about 16, and waved my hand and nodded for her attention. She walked towards me as my partners motioned for other girls of similar age to come and sit down at our table.
22:05 COLLECT INITIAL INTELLIGENCE
We engaged the girls in general conversation, trying our best to establish a rapport. There was a language barrier, of course, but when I could, I asked questions. I nodded my head, laughed, frowned, whatever seemed appropriate. I simply made a genuine effort to get to know these girls while simultaneously gathering information to confirm ALPHA team’s intel.
We asked the mamasan, the woman who managed the brothel for the trafficker, how much the girls charged hourly and if we could take the girls out on a “date.”
I made a mental note of the price before paying the mamasan and heading out.
$30.00. That was the cost for this young girl.
22:35 ARRIVED AT LOCAL PUB
I quietly let command know that we arrived at the second location. We took Sup and the two other girls to the pub for dinner and more conversation.
We managed to figure out what each girl’s real name was, where she was from, and how long she’d been working at the bar. All of these were important facts for building our case, and I was confident that we were getting all the right evidence on camera. We learned that Sup was, in fact, only 16, and all of her friends were also minors (under 18). According to law, they were all being trafficked.
22:55 COLLECTED MORE EVIDENCE
We discovered that Sup and her friends were brought from across the border. The man who owned the bar had paid the girls’ visa and travel fees, and they were in the process of working to pay off their debts. This is a common ploy used by traffickers. In reality, their debts would only continue to grow—so much so that the chances of the girls ever paying them off were slim to none.
Sup told us that she and her friends shared an apartment above the bar—four to a room—where they worked, ate, and lived. They were all under the strict watch of the mamasan and were only allowed to leave on “dates” with paying customers. We also learned they weren’t allowed to bring outside food back into the apartment, which explained why, despite their small size, they ate as much as grown football players.
00:13 TIME WAS UP
It was time for the girls to get back to the bar. We dreaded taking these teenagers back to their traffickers. It killed us to have to take them back and then just walk away, but it had to be done.
00:44 - RETURNED TO HQ
I let command know we were heading back to headquarters. We remained quiet on the ride home, still feigning our cover stories until we got safely back to headquarters. Once we arrived, we finally stopped holding our breath and collectively dropped the act. But our work wasn’t done.
01:14 OPERATION DEBRIEF
We convened back at headquarters with ALPHA team and reviewed the intel we gathered throughout the night. We discussed the age of the girls, how hungry they were, the apparent control of the mamasan, and the price we paid. Once we reviewed all of the significant pieces of evidence, we began to organize the video package.
The only thing that would get these girls out from under the hand of their traffickers was actionable evidence. ALPHA team found them, and we were able to go in that night to gather further evidence so that police could act to rescue them. This continues to be the most sustainable way to ensure that not only are girls freed, but traffickers are also arrested and taken off the streets. Once the local police receive the proof of what is truly going on in that place, we will work with them to execute a mission—a mission that aims to rescue the girls, arrest the traffickers, and maybe even shut down the brothel entirely. Until then, I could only remind myself:
I won't forget you, Sup. Rescue IS coming.
LEarn more about search and rescue
While investigations vary by country and circumstance, we wanted to give you a look into what it is an investigator goes through in order to collect evidence to present to police. To learn more about intervention work, visit our Search and Rescue page: