ALE Special Agent Gets National Award for Combating Human Trafficking

Thursday, January 23, 2020 - 3:42pm

It’s not every day that a state or local law enforcement officer gets recognized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, but that’s just what happened recently to an Alcohol Law Enforcement special agent. As the state observes Human Trafficking Awareness Month this January, the DPS family wants to congratulate ALE Special Agent and Department of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Task Force Officer (TFO) Bryan Irwin on his selection as a national recipient of the 2019 HSI Outstanding Efforts in Combating Human Trafficking Award. The award was presented at the International Chiefs of Police Conference in Chicago.

The award recognized Special Agent Irwin’s important work as part of the HSI Task Force investigation of a large human trafficking operation in North Carolina that began in 2016. The HSI Task Force and Guilford County Sheriff’s Office opened an investigation into a local business after receiving complaints from citizens of alleged sex acts and human trafficking. 

That initial investigation later revealed a much larger criminal organization. It was found that Asian females were trafficked from China after they answered advertisements for work in America. During the investigation, Special Agent Irwin played a key role in the identification and discovery of Asian females working within the business. The investigation, part of an ongoing criminal conspiracy investigation into transnational organized crime, saw the executiuton of numerous search warrants that led to the rescue of more than 20 victims and the arrest or indictment of more than nine defendants in both federal and state systems.

“The success of this operation was a testament to the hard work the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office put into it,” said Special Agent Irwin. “It highlights the importance of facilitating a partnership between local, state and federal agencies.”

Special Agent Irwin’s efforts in the fight again human trafficking haven’t been confined to his work on the street or in the courtroom. He conducted extensive research that showed alcohol establishments are a preferred venue for human trafficking crimes. ABC-permitted businesses are now required by law to post the National Human Trafficking Hotline Flyer. Irwin assisted in the design of the flyer and coordinated its distribution to all 18,000 alcohol permitted establishments across the state. 

“The Department of Public Safety is deeply committed to the fight against human trafficking,” said N.C. Public Safety Secretary Erik A. Hooks. “ALE Special Agent Irwin’s tireless efforts are a testament to the many ways we stand ready with our internal and external partners to continue this battle as we build the strong networks necessary to find, investigate and bring these cases to fruition.”