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Human trafficking a growing nightmare

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GregCapersSheriffIn my four decades of law enforcement experience, there aren’t many offenses that disturb me more on a personal level than when a child becomes a victim.

You don’t have to have a degree in international studies to understand what we in the United States, and regrettably here in Texas, are confronting daily with the influx of illegals, and many of them fall into the category of human traffickers.

Human trafficking is a serious crime and a violation of our human rights involving force, coercion, or fraud to exploit a person into slave labor or sexual exploitation.

Human trafficking can happen to people of all ages and gender, and any race or background. Women and children are often used for sexual exploitation, while men are usually used for forced labor. It is believed that one in five human trafficking victims are children exploited for child sexual deviancy, pornography, or child labor.

According to the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice, human trafficking cases involving sex trafficking victims were more likely to be White (26 percent) or Black (40 percent) compared to labor trafficking victims who were more likely to be Hispanic (63 percent) or Asian (17 percent).

Unfortunately, victims frequently do not seek help due to language barriers, fear of their traffickers, or fear of law enforcement. Because human trafficking is considered a hidden crime, several key indicators can help people recognize potential endangerment and notify us in law enforcement:

•Appearing malnourished.

•Appearing injured or having signs of physical abuse.

•Avoiding eye contact, social interaction, and law-enforcement

•Responding in a manner that seems rehearsed or scripted.

•Lacking personal identification documents.

•Lacking personal possessions.

The United States is ranked as one of the worst countries globally for human trafficking. It’s estimated that nearly 200,000 incidents occur in United States every year.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline has one of the most extensive databases on human trafficking in the United States collected through phone calls, texts, online chats, emails, and tips received by the hotline. While this information is some of the most comprehensive available, the database does not represent the total number of human trafficking. The number of cases presented is only the cases that are reported. It is believed that the real number is significantly higher.

In 2020, the United States had 8,900 human trafficking cases reported. The most common type of trafficking was sex trafficking, with the most common venues being illicit massage/spa businesses and pornography.

California constantly has the highest human trafficking rates in the United States with 1,300 cases reported in 2020. This is followed by Texas with 990 cases, Florida with 750 cases in New York with 415 cases. These four states with the highest human trafficking rates, have the highest population in the United States, which can explain why their numbers of cases are significantly higher than other states, and have very high immigration population. This combined with certain industries such as agriculture create a prime environment for forced labor.

Myths and Misconceptions

•Myth: Human trafficking does not occur in the United States

Fact: Human trafficking exists in every country, including the United States.

•Myth: Human trafficking victims are only foreign-born individuals and those who are poor.

Fact: Human trafficking victims can be any age, race, gender or nationality. They may come from any socioeconomic group.

•Myth: Human trafficking is only sex trafficking.

Fact: Sex trafficking exists, but it is not the only type of human trafficking. Forced labor is another type of human trafficking, both involved exploitation of people. Victims are found in legitimate and illegitimate labor industries, including sweatshops, massage parlors, agriculture, restaurants, and hotels.

•Myth: Individuals must be forced or coerced into commercial sex acts to be victims of human trafficking.

Fact: Under U.S. federal law, any minor under the age of 18, who is induced to perform a sex act, is a victim of human trafficking, regardless of whether he or she is forced or coerced.

•Myth: Human trafficking and human smuggling are the same.

Fact: Human trafficking is not the same as smuggling. Trafficking is based on exploitation and does not require movement across borders. Smuggling, however, is based on movement and involves moving a person across a country border with that persons, consent, violation of immigration laws. Although human smuggling is very different from human trafficking, human smuggling can turn into trafficking, if the smuggler uses force, fraud, or coercion, to hold people against their will for the purpose of labor or sexual exploitation.

•Myth: Human trafficking victims will attempt to seek help when in public.

Fact: Human trafficking is often hidden crime. Victims may be afraid to come forward and get help, they may be forced or coerced through threats violence; they may fear retaliation from traffickers, including dangers to their families; they may not be in possession or have control of their identification documents.

Some additional facts

In 2015, Texas House Bill 2059 was enacted that requires healthcare providers and any Texas medical board licensee who has direct patient contact to complete a prevention course on human trafficking. This course must be approved by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

Human trafficking is a crime defined by the United States Department of Justice as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coerced for the purpose of subjection to involuntary debt servitude, bondage, or slavery is a violation of both Texas and federal law.

What to do if you suspect trafficking

It is important to know what to do. If you suspect you have encountered a human trafficking situation, or if you see something suspicious, please report it. Include detailed information if you can, to include descriptions, of who, or what you have observed. Safely take pictures or license plate numbers. Call quickly after the encounter so that my office or the appropriate federal agency can take action. Most importantly, do not interfere or intervene yourself. Human traffickers are dangerous.

If you suspect human trafficking, call 911, or my non-emergency number at (936) 653-4367; or call the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888 or visit the website at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Should you need additional information on this subject or any other subject, please feel free to reach out to my office by calling my nonemergency number at (936) 653-4367 and ask my dispatcher for assistance.

Greg Capers is Sheriff of San Jacinto County.

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