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“Everything Is Bigger in Texas…Including Human and Sex Trafficking.” 

When you hear “everything is bigger in Texas,” I bet you’re thinking about those perfect Friday Night Lights.  Quite possibly your mind drifts to how large the state is geographically, big trucks taking up the highways, and the convenience of wider highway lanes.  I can tell what you’re not thinking about – how large of an operation human and sex trafficking is in Texas. 

Big Picture 

Let’s start with the big picture of just how BIG human trafficking is and what three states make up the big three.  Can you guess?  If you said California, Texas and Florida, respectively, you would be correct Do you want to guess four and five for kicks?  The surprise for me was Ohio ranked fourth, followed by New York. These rankings are based on reported incidences to the National Human Trafficking Hotline in 2018.  The “Human Trafficking Search” website breaks down the three states with California having 1,305 incidences, Texas with 792, and Florida with 604.  Those are just the ones that have been reported to that hotline.  A handful of years ago, Texas was ranked third, but it clearly has had a recent increase just as human trafficking overall has seen an increase.  As reported in the article entitled 2017 Human Trafficking Statistics, “8759 cases of human trafficking were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, representing over 10,000 individualized victims, almost 5,000 potential traffickers, and more than 1,500 businesses involved in human trafficking.”  Hard to believe those numbers and even harder to believe that shows an increase of “13 percent as compared to 2016.”  The breakdown done in this article shows 80 percent of those trafficked to be women and children.  Naturally, the ranking of ethnicity/race is as follows, “Latino, Asian, White, African/African-American/Black, and multi-ethnic/multi-racial, respectively.”   

Types of Trafficking 

Importantly enough, this article breaks down the three different areas of human trafficking.  They include, sex trafficking (the most common), sex and labor trafficking, and labor trafficking.  When people hear sex trafficking, they usually think of escort services which is the most prevalent.  19 is the most common age and it can be as simple as recruiting with promises like marriage, propositions, or sometimes even fraud. The most common place for a woman to be tangled up in commercial sex or “sex and labor trafficking,” is in “illicit massage businesses,” which show up in every state and manage to contribute a whopping $2.5 billion a year to the criminal industry.  And while sex trafficking is going on, you can’t forget to look at labor trafficking where people are offered domestic or agricultural jobs, for example.  Either way, 23 is the common age for labor trafficking.  Therefore, it is not always as “obvious” as one thinks it is, but if you think it feels kind of sketchy, chances are – IT IS!   

Texas Human and Sex Trafficking Distinctions 

Texas divides up trafficking into four types as noted on “Be the One’s” website.  “1) Labor Trafficking of Adults, 2) Sex trafficking of adults from clubs, brothels, massage parlors, etc, 3) Child trafficking for forced labor or 4) child trafficking for sex under the age of 18.”  While other forms of trafficking use coercion or force, underage sex trafficking doesn’t follow those criteria.  The ‘Be the One” website was extremely educational on Human Trafficking.  I found the difference in human trafficking and smuggling to be interesting.  The difference that needed to be noted is that trafficked persons don’t have to be “taken” or “moved” to be trafficked.  Rather “you can be trafficked in your own home.”  The example provided is that of a mother inviting men over to have sex with her daughter without ever moving her whereabouts – that is trafficking.  Also, the trafficker is the only one committing the crime, not the person being “forced” or “coerced” into the act and certainly not the underage victim.  

Spotlight on Texas – Recent Cases 

Bottomline, Texas trafficking is on the RISE.  The numbers above and the numbers quoted in other reports are gathered by “Polaris organization,” which operates both NHTH and the BeFree Textline.  In researching more about Texas, the most obvious reasons for trafficking include that Texas is a border state with immigration issues and large populations, it can also be argued otherwise, that it is simply “just happening” because it can.  Those that are most vulnerable include runaway children, those that are addicts, impoverished or in debt, victims of sexual or physical abuse, etc.   

As I was researching articles, I found an article from March of 2018, “Sex slavery bust in Dallas reveals a big problem for the city, and Texas.”  In West Dallas, there was a bust on a house that was a hub for sex slavery.  Take a “672-square-foot-home, where for three years women were locked up, drugged, raped, beaten, and forced to perform sex acts for money.”  Can you even imagine?  I can’t.  The article depicts a man sleeping next to the door with a weapon to deter them from sneaking out and cameras watched their every move.”  It took the courage of one of the women and the opportune passing of an ice cream truck to free these enslaved women.  A study was done by the Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault at the University of Texas and they found that 313,000 Texans, including 79,000 children, are caught up in the trafficking.  It has even reported that “hundreds of children are exploited for sex day and night in Dallas.”  The “easiest” targets being run-away children who are susceptible to adult lies and trickery.  Some of the women that went through the bust house were taken to Miami and were soliciting using online websites.  It is very unfortunate to see that trafficked persons sometime return to those who trafficked them or are lured back in.  It is even more disheartening that they can’t testify in court out of fear and that brings challenges to catching and stopping trafficking.  

Another article out of San Antonio explains how local groups are trying to raise awareness on the multitude of victims of sex trafficking.  A large part of going to war with this criminal industry is to educate others, especially law enforcement.  The Department of Homeland Security has started the Blue Campaign to raise awareness on this epidemic.  With an FBI Spokesperson, Michelle Lee, quoted throughout the article, one such quote stands out, “One out of every four runaways will actually be approached by someone to traffic them within the FIRST 48 HOURS!”  That was a huge shock to me, but I suppose they know exactly how to pinpoint someone at their most vulnerable moment.  Another shocking statistic acknowledged in this article is the report from DoSomething.org that human trafficking is the THIRD largest international crime industry, a $32 billion every year, behind illegal drugs and arms trafficking. 

Lastly, taking a dive into Texas, I want to take a look at the cities that are ranked the highest for human trafficking.  Houston has the highest number of human trafficking victims nation-wide.  Dallas/Fort Worth is the second highest metro area in Texas and Fort Worth numbers are on the rise.  From the statistics found in Fort Worth, there was a 65% increase from 2015 to 2016 with it holding steady in 2017.  The growing number is very concerning. 

In Summary 

Importantly enough, the main point of this post is to remind you to educate those around you and to understand that Texas has taken the spot of second in the nation with human trafficking incidences.  Think it is just border states?  Look at Ohio being fourth, a big shocker for sure.  It’s happening in the “simplest” of places and interactions and it can’t be hindered without awareness and education. 

 Written By: Katie Dreger, TF Volunteer 

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