FORT BEND COUNTY (Covering Fort Bend News) – Fort Bend County Officials recently attended a human trafficking briefing by the FBI and other agencies designed to educate elected officials about the expanding human trafficking problem.
After being briefed on the severity and harmful effects of trafficking, newly elected County Judge K.P. George pledged on behalf of the county to “do everything in our power to pursue the criminals behind this dehumanizing industry.”
Congressman Pete Olson, Fort Bend County Precinct 3 Commissioner Andy Meyers, and Precinct 3 Constable Wayne Thompson have all made similar promises to aggressively fight human trafficking in Fort Bend County. Sheriff Troy Nehls says he is ready to take them up on that offer.
Statistics show that from 2007 to 2015, the City of Houston had 717 cases of human trafficking out of 2,035 confirmed cases statewide. This accounted for approximately 35 percent of all confirmed cases from Texas, according to the City of Houston’s CAT Strategic Plan.
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The Texas Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force was created to respond to the growing human trafficking crisis. The task force partners, with approximately 50 agencies, intends to provide recommendations to the Texas Legislature.
One such group, Children At Risk, actively tracks suspected illegal massage businesses and maps their locations within the state. Maps created by Children at Risk revealed that Harris County has a staggering 259 suspected illegal massage parlors, followed by Dallas at 95. Fort Bend currently had eight such suspected businesses.
Nehls called a meeting of several top law enforcement officials from around the county to obtain a consensus regarding what future actions are needed to combat human trafficking in Fort Bend County.
Most agency officials agreed that increased public awareness, education, specialized training, identifying possible human trafficking signs and strategic coordination of resources were all necessary to effectively combat trafficking.
While Fort Bend County residents enjoy a relatively safe and close community, the same cannot be said of Harris County. The numbers statewide and nationally show a massive human trafficking problem in Harris County. Nehls cautions Fort Bend residents “not to let their guards down and to be vigilant in identifying any suspicious activity relating to human trafficking.”
The Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office wants to partner with the community and all law enforcement agencies to identify and prevent human trafficking from occurring in Fort Bend County.
“We all know that ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’,” Nehls said. “We ask the County Judge’s Office to take steps to fulfill the judge’s recent promises he would be requesting four new human trafficking investigators.
“As the primary law enforcement agency for the unincorporated areas of Fort Bend County, it is important we have the tools we need to fulfill their commitments. We need to get ahead of this problem, and with Commissioners Court providing the resources we need, I have no doubt we will be successful. With the addition of these specially trained investigators, Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office will be able to actively pursue and prevent human trafficking activities before they gain a stronghold in our county.”