The problem of human trafficking isn't just an immigration issue. It's something that's also impacting people right here in East Texas.
Tyler based non-profit, For the Silent, has saved 132 underage victims in the past five years.
Kenny Rigsby and his wife founded the non-profit ten years ago, and have traveled the world helping victims. During this time, they have seen the affect this crime has had on East Texas.
"We've had cases of girls being prostituted out all around the area, South Tyler, North Tyler, Longview, all over East Texas." Rigsby said. “The reason trafficking is happening is because of demand.”
To put this problem into perspective, here's some alarming facts from The University OF Texas on human trafficking in the state.
Approximately 79,000 young people are victims of sex trafficking, a crime that is costing the state 6.6 billion a year to provide care to victims.
There are about 230,000 victims of labor trafficking. Those criminals responsible are making 600 million dollars from their labor.
Rigsby tells me one way to help stop this crime is for parents to talk to their children.
"Really empowering and giving girls the tools they need to protect themselves and giving them self-confidence.” Rigsby tells me. “Knowing not to be lured by predators and learning to speak up if they are approached.”
Through those interactions and notifying law enforcement, Rigsby says the fight against human trafficking is going in the right direction.
If you know someone who is a victim human trafficking, there is help available. Call the hotline at 1-888-373-7888
It's a confidential line, where someone is available to answer a call any time.