Houston Taking Action Against Human Trafficking
by: Laurie Johnson, August 29, 2012 6:08:00 pm
An advisory committee sounds rather dull, but this one is filled with experts on law enforcement, human trafficking and victims' rights. Houston Mayor Annise Parker established the committee to take a comprehensive look at how to fight human trafficking in the region.
"It's not just about raising awareness, what do you do about it? Human trafficking is modern day slavery. There's no nice to put it, human trafficking is modern day slavery."
Houston has more sexually oriented businesses than almost any other U.S. city, including Las Vegas. But human trafficking isn't restricted to the sex industry.
Maria Trujillo is executive director of Houston Rescue and Restore Coalition and will chair the mayor's committee. She says Houstonians interact with captives on a regular basis and don't even realize it.
"There are nannies and maids in multi-million dollar homes throughout our city who are in domestic servitude. It could be in your restaurant when you go out to dinner, how are the people being treated at the restaurant? It could be at the nail salon that you go get your nails done. I'm always asking a million and one questions when I'm getting my nails done. How long have you been here? How do you like our city? What's going on? How do you like your job? How are the interactions between the manager or the boss versus the employees? So these are kinds of things that we could all look out for in our every day lives."
Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia says the region's proximity to the Mexico border and alignment along a major interstate
highway make it an ideal spot for criminals to sell guns, drugs and people.
"Somebody's making a buck off of this. We want to get those individuals, we want to get those scouts, we want to put them in jail, we want to shut down those particular enterprises. It's going to take great courage because of how profound these types of operations can be. They can be in the far corners of the globe and tie in in Houston/Harris County."
The 10-member committee has six months to put together an action plan, with an emphasis on raising awareness in the community.
The Department of Justice cites Houston as one of the most intense cities for human trafficking.