Texans Unite Against Human Trafficking: Local, State, and Federal Agencies Launch Statewide Campaign
The FBI, United Against Human Trafficking, and Clear Channel Outdoor joined local, state, and federal partners today to call upon Texans to unite against human trafficking and help put a stop to modern day slavery throughout Texas. The unified group of agencies announced a statewide campaign and unveiled billboards and a host of public service advertisements to raise awareness about human trafficking and encourage reporting. The FBI also released a list of Most Wanted Human Traffickers in Texas. A reward up to $10,000 is being offered for information leading to the arrest of fugitives on the Most Wanted Human Traffickers list.
Texas ranks second in the nation in total calls to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) hotline, with only California ranked higher. In 2013, a total of 436 potential trafficking cases were reported through the hotline from Texas; 144 of those cases were from Houston. Texas’ geographic location, proximity to the border, demographics, and large migrant work force make the state a popular point of entry for human trafficking.
Since the Polaris Project began operating the NHTRC in December 2007, the anti-trafficking hotline has taken over 110,000 calls nationally, including more than 9,500 from Texas. The NHTRC has received reports of more than 1,500 potential cases of human trafficking in Texas. The billboard and public service ad campaign is aimed at reaching trafficking victims who need help, as well as Texans who are being encouraged to report any signs of human trafficking.
“Traffickers are preying on the vulnerable and enslaving them right here within our own communities,” said FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Carlos J. Barron. “Human beings are not a commodity to be bought and sold. The FBI will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute these cases with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners.”
Beginning today, educational messages about human trafficking will be displayed on both traditional and digital billboards across the Houston area and throughout Texas. Advertising space and time are being donated by the Outdoor Advertising Association of Texas (OAAT) and its member companies, Clear Channel Outdoor and Lamar Advertising. Public service ads will appear on Houston-area Yellow Cabs, Metro buses, and area shopping malls. Similar public service announcements will also air on Univision television, Univision radio, and Clear Channel-owned radio stations throughout Texas. All public service ads promote the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline (1-888-3737-888) or Polaris Project’s texting short code “BeFree” (233733).
United Against Human Trafficking (UAHT), formerly known as Houston Rescue and Restore Coalition is a driving force in this media campaign to deepen the community’s understanding of the issue, to inform the community that anyone can be a victim of human trafficking and to encourage continued reporting to the human trafficking hotline. “Media campaigns have been an integral part of our efforts to grow public awareness about this issue as the community is the eyes and ears on the ground helping law enforcement to bring traffickers to justice and victims out of the shadows” stated Maria Trujillo, Executive Director of UAHT. “We are thrilled to be partnering this year with agencies such as the FBI and Clear Channel Outdoor and to have the support of leaders such as Governor Perry and Mayor Parker for this endeavor.”
“The OAAT is proud to be a major part of this effort to bring to the forefront the issue of human trafficking in our state,” said Lee Vela, OAAT president. “Through our resources these messages will reach millions of Texans throughout the year and it is our sincere hope that victims come forward for help as we raise awareness in the general public.”
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center is a confidential, toll-free lifeline for victims of human trafficking to reach out for help and for the public to anonymously report tips of suspected human trafficking or to obtain information. People can call 1-888-3737-888 for help, or text Polaris Project at BeFree (233733), 24 hours a day, every day of the year. The hotline is available in more than 180 languages through the use of interpreters, including in Spanish through bilingual staff.
“Whether it’s the woman forced to sell sex in a brothel, the man coerced into a fraudulent door-to-door sales crew, or the young girl sold on Backpage.com, there’s a broad network of support ready to help victims of sex and labor trafficking in Texas and throughout the country. Awareness campaigns are critical to ensure that we can reach more victims and get them connected to help,” said Bradley Myles, CEO of Polaris Project. “Polaris Project is grateful to participate in this effort with organizations like United Against Human Trafficking in Houston, Clear Channel Outdoor, and law enforcement and legislative partners at the state and national levels.”
Under federal law, knowingly providing or obtaining the labor or services of a person by any force, threats or physical restraint is a felony offense, carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a significant fine. Additionally, under federal law, knowingly engaging in the sex trafficking of children or the sex trafficking of adults by force, fraud, or coercion is a felony offense, carrying a sentence of 10 years to life in prison and significant fines. Under Texas state law, trafficking of persons or compelling prostitution are felony offenses, carrying punishment ranges of two to 20 years or five to 99/life in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
The FBI and its partners also unveiled a list of Texas’ Most Wanted Human Traffickers. A reward up to $10,000 is being offered for information leading to the arrest of these individuals, whose descriptions and billboards are below:
Alfonso Diaz-Juarez, aka Poncho, aka El Greñas, a 45-year-old Mexican national, is wanted federally for sex trafficking violations. Investigators believe Diaz-Juarez may be in the Houston area, or traveling between Texas and Mexico.
Roger Galindo-Sepeda, a 40-year-old Honduran national, is wanted federally for conspiracy to smuggle, transport, and harbor illegal aliens. Investigators believe Galindo-Sepeda may be in the Dallas area, or traveling between Texas and Honduras.
Maria Isabel Cruz, a 46-year-old Honduran national, is wanted federally for conspiracy to smuggle, transport, or harbor illegal aliens. Investigators believe Cruz may be in the Dallas area, or traveling between Texas and Honduras.
If you have information about these fugitives call 1-800-CALL-FBI, or the Crime Stoppers tip-line at 713-222-TIPS (8477).
The FBI and agencies of the Houston Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance partnered with Governor Rick Perry, Mayor Anise Parker, U.S. Congressman Ted Poe, Texas State Representative Senfronia Thompson, United Against Human Trafficking, Polaris Project, the Outdoor Advertising Association of Texas (OAAT), and member companies Clear Channel Outdoor and Lamar Advertising to launch today’s event at Houston’s City Hall, along with representatives from the United States Attorney’s Office-Southern District of Texas, Homeland Security Investigations, United States Department of State-Diplomatic Security Service, United States Department of Labor-Office of Inspector General, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, Harris County District Attorney’s Office, the Houston Police Department, Harris County Sheriff’s Office, Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, YMCA International, Catholic Charities, Crime Stoppers of Houston, Houston Yellow Cab, and the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County.
On April 17, 2014, the Texas Department of Public Safety released Assessing the Threat of Human Trafficking in Texas, which was developed to provide a broad overview of human trafficking activity in the state. This report is now available to the public at http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/director_staff/media_and_communications/2014/txHumanTraffickingAssessment.pdf