Thwarting increasingly sophisticated criminal gangs takes a holistic approach that must start now.
Illegal trade is a growing threat. It fuels the 2.2 trillion dollar-a-year industry of transnational crime. It empowers criminal organizations to steal money from businesses and governments, spur violence, and flood the street with deadly fentanyl, and it feeds other criminal activity.
Some criminals who engage in illegal trade are cunning and violent and will commit murder to hold and expand their illicit markets. This enables these groups to fund their operations and establish and sustain trade routes for trafficking across the country. They are nimble enough to avoid law enforcement, enterprising enough to continually establish new revenue streams and recruit vulnerable citizens, and are dynamic in their execution of their criminal enterprises.
While the buying and selling of counterfeit goods are often seen as “petty” or “victimless” crimes, nothing could be further from the truth. Regardless of the commodity—whether it’s luxury purses, illicit tobacco, or pirated software—they’re often connected to criminal and terrorist groups. The criminal enterprises that traffic in these goods also traffic more dangerous goods, like drugs and guns.
And while illegal guns and drugs are undoubtedly impacting our communities, the horrific crime of human trafficking cannot be overlooked. This form of modern-day slavery and exploitation occurs all over the world, including here in the United States—in our big cities, suburbs, and even in rural towns. Every year in the U.S., thousands of human trafficking cases are reported—but many more go unnoticed. It is estimated to be a $150 billion industry and is the fastest growing criminal enterprise of the 21st Century.
Illegal trade undermines democracy, corrodes the rule of law, jeopardizes economic growth development strategies, contributes to human rights abuses, and enflames violent conflicts. It is also a growing threat to our national security.
This black market activity diverts revenue away from legitimate businesses and governments, preventing communities from making necessary investments to stimulate economic growth, particularly during these hard economic times. In 2019, counterfeit products alone robbed the U.S. economy of $131 billion and 325,500 jobs. Those revenues should have been used to build roads to facilitate commerce, hospitals to fight pandemic outbreaks and diseases, or schools to educate our children.
Unfortunately, the problem of illegal trade cannot be solved by any one government, agency, or company working alone. We need a whole-of-society approach in order to strengthen the political will in risky markets to combat illegal trade, confiscate criminally derived proceeds, promote information-sharing and coordinated actionable intelligence, and develop more innovative and smarter supply chain solutions.
That’s why United to Safeguard America from Illegal Trade (USA-IT) is joining together brand protection experts, law enforcement agencies, and leading business organizations to fight back in states facing critical illegal trade issues. We are raising public awareness and providing local officials, law enforcement, and other leaders with resources and training in order to tackle black-market profiteers, because the complex and pervasive issue of illegal trade has severe consequences.
Only by working together can we unite against the corruptive influence of today’s bad actors and threat networks that are sabotaging legitimate commerce and the legal economy, and to ensure justice and safeguard our communities from harmful counterfeits and deadly drugs, violence, and criminal recruitment.
Learn more and get involved: WWW.USAIT.ORG.
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