DENVER (CBS4)– Colorado highways are used daily for human smuggling. That’s according to Colorado State Patrol officers.
State Patrol said Interstate 25 and Interstate 70 are used to smuggle men, women and children into Colorado and beyond. State troopers catch the illegal activity once, twice and sometimes three times per day.
“It happens, for lack of a better term, every day. It’s an ongoing issue and it’s just something that we try to stay on top of from a traffic safety perspective,” said Colorado State Trooper Sgt. Mike Baker.
On Wednesday, state troopers discovered a human smuggling operation after pulling over a van for a traffic stop. It was the third such suspected operation that day.
Colorado State Patrol’s Immigration Enforcement Unit investigates such cases.
“What’s focuses on are traffic safety issues that arise from human trafficking and human smuggling,” said Baker.
Of the 11 people in the van that was pulled over near Genesee, two people ran from the vehicle and down an embankment. A full-scale rescue operation captured one person, the other person has not been found. Troopers said all those involved are illegal immigrants.
State troopers said the vehicles they encounter often have all the seats removed to fit more people inside.
“The more people that they are smuggling or trafficking the more profitable it becomes so it behooves them to put a lot of people in vehicles which compromises the safety of the vehicle,” said Baker.
The overloaded vans are often poorly maintained and become a danger on the road.
“This causes crashes in the bottom line and that is what our troopers are concerned with,” said Baker.
Once a smuggling operation is identified the people involved are turned over to federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.
State laws passed in 2006 made both human trafficking and human smuggling felony crimes. The Colorado State Patrol’s Immigration Enforcement Unit was created at that time.