Nation's top human trafficking route runs through Houston

Lawmakers heard first-hand stories of how Houston is a hub for this disturbing crime
March 20, 2014 4:32:27 PM PDT
Human trafficking is considered the modern day slavery. It's said to be the second largest criminal industry in the world, so local and government officials are working together to try and stop the problem here in Houston.

A congressional hearing took place at Texas Southern University on Thursday to discuss the issue.

The federal government considered the Houston area to be one of the biggest hubs in the country for human trafficking. In fact, the 1-10 corridor has been labeled as the number one trafficking route in the country.

HPD Chief Charles McClelland says the average age of a girl when first victimized into trafficking is just 12 years old.

"No one wakes up and wants to become a prostitute," said Natashia Williams, a former escort and prostitute for 11 years. "I started prostituting just to live, just to take care of myself, so I didn't have to ask my people for money."

Here in the Houston area, there are more than 300 sexually oriented businesses. Officials here claim that some of them are used for trafficking.

"We share a border with Mexico, so we have a lot of international trafficking," said Bob Sandborn, CEO of Children at Risk. "But the big number is always going to be these domestic girls, girls from other states who run away from home that come to Houston, girls that come here specifically for the purposes of these sexually oriented businesses that we have."

"This is a supply and demand type of industry," said Harris County Human Trafficking Specialist Ann Johnson. "The most that we can do is try and shut down that supply and that demand, and provide support to protect victims."

Williams said, "I don't want my children to repeat my life story."

It's important to note the difference between trafficking and smuggling. You might remember yesterday, authorities uncovered a home where more than 100 undocumented immigrants were being held in our area. Smuggling is when you bring or hold someone here to the country illegally. Trafficking is when those people are being forced into bondage or slavery.

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