AUSTIN (KYTX) – Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steven McCraw today provided testimony at the Joint Interim Committee to Study Human Trafficking, co-chaired by State Representative Senfronia Thompson and State Senator Joan Huffman.
Director McCraw also provided members of the committee with a state intelligence estimate, Assessing the Threat of Human Trafficking in Texas, that was developed to provide a broad overview of human trafficking activity in the state.
This report is now available to the public click here for the report.
"My colleagues and I are committed to protecting victims and combatting the perpetrators involved in the human trafficking industry, which poses a significant threat to public safety in Texas," said Sen. Joan Huffman. "Based on the DPS threat assessment on this issue, law enforcement agencies will be better positioned to protect the public and develop proactive strategies to prevent these crimes."
"Texas has been in the forefront of the battle against human trafficking for many years," said Rep. Senfronia Thompson. "As we continue to study ways to combat this heinous crime, I applaud DPS for continuing the fight to end this form of modern-day slavery through their recent assessment report, which I believe will prove to be a powerful tool for law enforcement agencies in pursuing these criminals and bringing justice to the victims."
In Texas, human trafficking involves the recruitment, harboring, transporting or procurement of any person for labor or services for the purpose of involuntary servitude, slavery or forced commercial sex acts.
This report is based on the collaboration between multiple law enforcement, homeland security and government agencies across the state and nation, whose contributions were essential in creating an in-depth understanding of the threat of human trafficking in Texas.
"Human trafficking exploits vulnerable individuals – including innocent children – and subjects victims to violence, extortion, forced labor, sexual assault and, in many cases, prostitution. We are grateful for the Texas Legislature's leadership in helping to combat this deplorable industry," said DPS Director Steven McCraw. "Preventing and detecting these crimes is a matter of utmost importance at DPS, and this assessment enhances our ability to pursue the criminal organizations perpetrating these vile crimes."
As was noted in today's committee hearing and in the report, estimates of the scale of human trafficking activity vary, and existing measures provide a limited view of this criminal activity. These limitations are due to multiple factors, including chronic under-reporting of these crimes.
Additional significant findings in the assessment include:
Sex trafficking is the fastest growing business of organized crime and the third-largest criminal enterprise in the world. Sex trafficking involves domestic and international victims, males and females, and children and adults.
Although human smuggling is distinct from human trafficking, there is substantial overlap. In many cases crimes that initially begin as human smuggling evolve into human trafficking or a related crime. For example, individuals who voluntarily enter into an agreement with a human smuggling organization may be ultimately kidnapped, moved or held against their will, assaulted or otherwise exploited. In Texas, Mexican cartels facilitate, control or benefit from nearly all human smuggling activity along the border with Mexico.
Sex traffickers in Texas target juvenile runaways, illegal aliens and other vulnerable victims, using force, fraud or coercion to compel them into the sex trade. Victims are often manipulated by traffickers to remain with them due to their emotional or financial dependency on the trafficker for food, housing or other needs.
Members and associates of multiple gangs have been reported to be involved in sex trafficking operations in Texas, including Barrio Azteca, Black Gangster Disciples, Bloods, Crips, Mara Salvatrucha, Surenos and Tango Blast. Gangs and gang members are attracted to the lucrative nature of this crime due to the potential for large and renewable profits while the risk of detection is perceived to be lower than traditional crimes.
Labor traffickers often recruit, transport and employ the legal and illegal immigrants they bring to the United States for the purpose of forced labor and indentured servitude. These immigrants originate from various countries around the world, and victims can be exploited in rural and urban areas in a variety of industries.
To view Director McCraw's written testimony submitted to the Joint Interim Committee to Study Human Trafficking, click here.