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From gangs to human trafficking to child porn, Homeland Security targets broad range of threats

The Daily Citizen - 9/14/2018

Sept. 14--From New York to California, few populated areas in the United States have been unaffected by transnational gangs, such as MS-13. The violence they commit keeps them in the headlines.

But the Greater Dalton area doesn't have the problems some other areas have with transnational gangs, according to Darren Webb, the resident agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Dalton and a former United States Secret Service special agent.

Webb spoke recently to the Whitfield County Republican Party.

"When they (transnational gang members) do pop up here, we shut them down pretty quickly," he said.

An audience member asked about reports of such gangs in Chattanooga.

"It's close. It's very close, but it's not here, and we are determined to keep it that way," Webb said.

HSI is part of the federal Department of Homeland Security, which was formed in 2002 as a result of the 9/11 terror attacks on the United States. HSI has its roots in the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Investigations, and Webb said ICE and HSI have had an office in Dalton since the 1990s.

Webb said the agency focuses on a number of issues that affect national security, including transnational gangs, cybercrime (including the distribution of child pornography), human smuggling, intellectual property theft, human rights violations, narcotics and weapons smuggling, illegal immigration and document and benefit fraud.

State Sen. Bruce Thompson, R-White, also spoke to the group. He noted that Georgia is one of only five states without a computer snooping law.

"If somebody hacks into your computer, it's not illegal as long as they don't damage anything or manipulate anything," he said.

Thompson said he wrote a bill after he was the victim of identity theft and someone ran up tens of thousands of dollars of charges in his name.

Audience members said they found the presentations informative.

"It was reassuring to find out that we not only have one Homeland Security agent here, which I was aware of, but that the Dalton office actually has four or five agents," said Jevin Jensen. "And that they are very active in keeping an eye on gangs, and that they are apparently successful in keeping Dalton pretty clean, at least in terms of those gangs with international reach."

Greg Williams said he found Webb's presentation particularly interesting.

"I don't think most people are aware of what's going on to protect our nation or about the resources that we have here locally," he said.


(c)2018 The Daily Citizen (Dalton, Ga.)

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