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Public Safety: Human Trafficking

With its 27 ports of entry, 1,254 miles of international border with Mexico, 367 miles of coastline, and over 267,000 square miles, the State of Texas exists as a major point of entry and place of business for both local and international human trafficking groups (TDS, 2013). According to the NGO Children at Risk, Texas serves as the largest point of illegal entry into the United States due to traffickers being able to get aliens across the border without documents. According to Children at Risk, victims of human trafficking include both foreigners who are brought across international borders as well as U.S. citizens and legal residents who are trafficked within U.S. borders. Of those trafficked, the U.S. government believes that 80 percent of transnational trafficked persons are women and about 50 percent of them are minors. Among victims who are American born, it is estimated that 450,000 children run away from home each year and one out of every three of those children are lured into sex trafficking within the first 48 hours of their having run away (CAR, 2010). More below…
The Houston region stands out as one of the most prominent communities susceptible to human trafficking in the country: not only is it the closest major city to the border with an I-10 corridor passing through it, but it is also home to a large number of sexually oriented businesses such as strip clubs, massage parlors and modeling studios.lxvi Houston is also home to universities and professional sporting events that attract numerous visitors, creating an even greater demand for the commercial sex industry (CAR, 2010). According to a report released by the Houston Rescue and Restore Coalition (HRRC) in 2011, the Houston region presents a unique situation in that it is incredibly large and diverse. Composed of nine counties that are ethnically and socioeconomically distinct and with different levels of awareness, it becomes increasingly difficult to pull together the resources and awareness necessary to combat human trafficking (HRRC, 2011).

There are about 30 non-profit organizations in the Houston region with programs specifically focused on aiding victims of human trafficking. The majority of them were founded in the 1990s and 2000s, perhaps indicating a wider-spread awareness of this pressing issue.

As of June 2014, Mayor Annise Parker and Governor Rick Perry announced an anti-human trafficking campaign. Included in the campaign are billboards about human trafficking in Houston and other Texas cities, as well as public service announcements on Univision television, Univision radio and Clear Channel radio. In addition, Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson asserted that law enforcement would focus on customers and pimps in an attempt to curb demand and reduce supply for the fast-growing business. As asserted by Governor Rick Perry, “This modern-day slave trade is an affront to human decency” (Ehlinger, 2014).
Sources cited

Texas Department of Safety, “Texas Public Safety Threat Overview,” 2013, Retrieved from: http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/director_staff/media_and_communications/2013/threatOverview.pdf.

Children at Risk, “The State of Human Trafficking in Texas,” 2010, Retrieved from: http://childrenatrisk.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/State-of-Human-Trafficking-in-Texas-FINAL.pdf.

Houston Rescue and Restore Coalition, “Rapid Field Assessment of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking in Harris and Galveston Counties, Texas,” August 2011, Retrieved from: http://sharedhope.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Domestic-Minor-Sex-Trafficking-Field-Assessment-Harris-and-Galveston-Cty.pdf.

Samantha Ehlinger, “Perry, Parker united to tackle ‘modern-day slavery’ in Houston,” The Houston Chronicle, June 3, 2014, Retrieved from: http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Perry-Parker-unite-to-tackle-modern-day-5525816.php.