January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month and the Texas Attorney General is fighting the problem by educating people about the roles they can play in helping to spot and report the modern day slavery.
“People who saw something, recognized that there was a problem, and had the guts to stand and report it,” says one of the speakers in a video produced with the help of the Office of the Texas Attorney General (OAG).
In September of this year, the OAG will finish the work on a comprehensive training video that will help people spot, report, and in short, help combat the problem that is so prevalent in this state. The video will first be made available to the 315,000 state employees. The OAG’s 4,000 employees must watch the video, a statement from the OAG said.
Texas serves as the major hub through which human traffickers travel and land. Houston is the nation’s number one hub of human trafficking and has the highest number of reported trafficking cases.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton held a press conference on Thursday to recognize January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month. State Senator Joan Huffman (R-Houston), and State Representative Senfronia Thompson (D-Houston), joined the Lone Star State’s top lawyer when he announced that his office will be completing what his office calls “a comprehensive training video on human trafficking awareness.” Paxton said in a written statement that Sen. Joan Huffman and Rep. Thompson “have been at the forefront of legislation to combat human trafficking, a form of modern-day slavery.”
“As Texas makes strides toward eliminating this horrific and dehumanizing crime, it is imperative to inform and train as many Texans as possible on how to recognize and report suspected human trafficking,” Attorney General Paxton said. “With the development of this training video along with the already strong programs developed by our human trafficking section, we hope to reach as many people as we can throughout the state. I applaud our team’s constant work in educating Texans on such an important issue.”
At the press conference, Paxton went over some of the initiatives that the human trafficking section of his office has been working on. One of the first things he did upon taking office was to create a special unit to help catch and prosecute traffickers. The OAG’s Human Trafficking/Transnational Organized Crime section (HTTOC) has assisted or consulted on dozens of cases. It also provided human trafficking awareness training to almost 8,000 people, including law enforcement officials, educators, medical practitioners, students, and lawyers, in the state.
As reported by Breitbart Texas this week, Backpage.com closed its adult advertising section on Monday after two state attorneys general and a U.S. Senate panel focused a light on its advertising. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton made the highest-profile human trafficking bust in the Lone Star State’s history when his office helped investigate Backpage.com and its board members. The CEO of the online advertising website, Carl Ferrer, was arrested in October at a Houston airport after he flew in on a flight from Amsterdam. At the time of Ferrer’s arrest, Paxton released a statement saying the victims that are sex trafficked include both voluntary and involuntary participants. He called the website a “deep-seated evil” and “modern-day slavery.” Breitbart Texas has reported on several cases where Backpage.com was used to sex traffic a minor.
Paxton’s HTTOC team has being working with Truckers Against Trafficking and the Texas Trucking Association to report activity connected or suspected to be connected to human trafficking. Breitbart Texas reported in early September that Paxton met with a group of truckers who committed to help spot and report human trafficking on our nation’s highways. Law enforcement professionals and truck drivers working together has proven to be an effective tool to stop the trafficking and abuse of many young girls in this country. “Truckers are the eyes and ears of our Texas highways,” Attorney General Paxton told those gathered at the time.
The website of the Texas Attorney General has information on how to recognize and report suspected trafficking cases, as previously reported by Breitbart Texas.
The OAG website lists the four types of trafficking under Texas law:
- Trafficking of adults for forced labor, for instance in agriculture, food service, factory work or sales;
- Trafficking of adults for sex, in strip clubs, brothels, massage parlors, street or internet prostitution;
- Trafficking of children under the age of 18 for forced labor; and
- Trafficking of children under the age of 18 for sex. An individual can be trafficked into any industry or type of work. Legally, someone is trafficked if force, fraud or coercion is applied to make the trafficked person work or if a child under the age of 18 is trafficked for sex by any means, regardless of whether the trafficker has to use force, fraud or coercion.
Traffickers cannot be identified by “one particular look.” They are individuals “who are willing to treat other people like objects or commodities that they can buy, sell or exploit for their own benefit.” According to the OAG, human traffickers can be:
- family, relatives
- international third party recruiters
- unscrupulous employers
- organized crime syndicates, cartels or gangs
- strip club owners/managers
- opportunistic criminals
- intimate partners
- neighbors and friends
- sex buyers who pay for children under the age of 18 or adults who are being forced to prostitute
The attorney general asks that if you see someone you suspect may be a trafficking victim, take action. Even if you are unsure if a crime is being committed, talk with the person privately if you can if you are able to do so in a circumstance that is non-threatening. If you believe that having such a conversation would be dangerous, make a call to the National Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. You can also text “Help” or “Info” to 233733. The Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Information can be reported anonymously to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), the OAG Human Trafficking Division (512-463-0950), or the Child Protective Services Hotline if a child is involved (1-800-252-5400).