HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Local law enforcement has seen an uptick in sex trafficking in southwest Houston, so in an effort to reduce the presence of prostitution in the area, community leaders are reminding people of a new law set to go into effect next week.
Harris County Precinct 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey and District J Houston Council Member Edward Pollard used a news conference event Monday to spell out the consequences of those who commit a crime under Texas House Bill 2795.
Beginning Sept. 1, the changes approved under HB 2795 go into effect, making the solicitation of prostitution a felony punishable up to two years in jail. This new law will make Texas the first state in America to codify this offense as a felony.
It's a major issue along Bissonnet Street between Beltway 8 and the Southwest Freeway, which Pollard and Ramsey say is one of the nation's most notorious hot spots for sex trafficking.
Pollard said the problem was brought to his attention several months ago in a letter from a young girl who attends school in the area.
"She said it bothered her to leave school and see prostitutes walking up an down the street," said Pollard. "She questioned if I cared about the area. That letter really touched me and I vowed to my staff that we make this issue a priority."
Other members of the community have sent Pollard recordings of the crimes they have witnessed along that street.
Pollard said he was sent a link to a video showing "women barely covered on the street and cars stopping to solicit."
Local officials are not going to ignore these happenings any longer, Ramsey said.
Their first step has been setting up multiple cameras to monitor and record the traffic along Bissonnet.
On Aug. 31, all law enforcement agencies will convene for a private meeting to establish a strategic plan to address the crime. Pollard said they will discuss the true root causes of prostitution and how to make sure these women who feel trapped still get an opportunity to turn their life around.
According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, Texas is ranked No. 2 in the nation in reported sex trafficking cases. In 2020, the state Department of Public Safety reported that approximately 1.8 million online commercial sex ads were posted and over 300,000 were suspected to be children.