Human trafficking – the use of force, fraud or coercion in any type of labor exploitation or commercial sex act, or when an individual under the age of 18 is involved in commercial sex – can happen to anyone, anywhere. It occurs in every state, every day and often goes unnoticed by those in the community. To draw attention to those victims, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is reminding Texans to be vigilant as we mark National Human Trafficking Prevention Month.
“Human traffickers are a serious threat to the safety of our communities, and it is up to all of us to be aware to stop the cycle,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “By being alert and notifying law enforcement of something that doesn’t seem right, you can help someone from a situation in which they are unable to help themselves.”
DPS’ Human Trafficking Program is charged with the overall direction of the state’s enforcement efforts against human trafficking in Texas. The program works with local, state and federal agencies within Texas and the nation to identify, investigate, disrupt and/or dismantle major human trafficking organizations.
Public awareness is an important part of preventing and combating this crime. Human trafficking operations are often masked as legitimate businesses in highly visible areas and victims can be lured from suburban areas, rural areas or big cities. Traffickers tend to prey on the vulnerabilities of high-risk populations like those experiencing homelessness, juvenile runaways, historical or active drug users, individuals with difficult or abusive homes and individuals with language barriers or a reason to want to avoid law enforcement personnel.
No matter how it happens, human trafficking has devastating impacts on victims and our communities.
This month, and always, DPS asks Texans to be observant of others around you and take note of the following possible indicators of human trafficking:
- The person appears to be under control of another person either physically (someone else controls the person’s possessions i.e., ID, money, phone) or psychologically (little to no eye contact, unable to speak for themselves or unable to make simple decisions without approval).
- The person has little to no awareness of their surroundings including where they are or where they are headed.
- The person has untreated illness or infection, visible injuries, appears malnourished or sleep deprived.
- The person’s clothing is inappropriate for the weather or environment. The person is dressed in a manner that does not appear age appropriate or makes them appear older.
- The person is being transported to and from work by their employer.
- The person lives where they work or works excessively long or unusual hours.
- The person’s workplace has security measures that are unusual or excessive for the type of business (i.e., boarded or opaque windows, excessive security cameras).
The presence of an indicator does not confirm an occurrence of human trafficking; however, the combination and context of indicators may indicate human trafficking pending law enforcement investigation and you are encouraged to report it.
If you see signs of human trafficking, call 911 immediately to report it and be ready to give as many details as possible. You can also make a report on iWatchTexas or call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text “BeFree” to 233733.
Remember do not endanger yourself or others by intervening or confronting someone you suspect of engaging in human trafficking if it is not safe to do so.