Human trafficking education important for families/teens

Posted Wednesday, May. 22, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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People often think of larger cities when they consider areas of high crime, but according to the Traffick 911 organization, Parker County also has to face crime such as the trafficking of young residents.

Mary Elliott, a representative of Traffick 911, met with parents and residents recently at Trinity Bible Church.

“Human trafficking is a difficult subject to talk about,” Elliot said.

The Traffick 911 organization started three years ago and since then has taken part in educating teens and families and also training police officers and other law enforcement agencies.

Elliott said they work closely with the North Texas chapter of Homeland Security and recently Homeland Security encouraged the organization to spread their impact to other counties such as Parker and Hood.

“Homeland Security has determined that there is a problem here,” Elliott said.

Elliott, who grew up in Weatherford, said she never thought of trafficking as a local problem. But she said Traffick 911 wants to make residents aware that it is an issue.

“It happens right here,” Elliott said. “It happens in our neighborhood.”

Elliot said the issue might especially be a problem in Parker County because of the Interstate 20 corridor that connects western areas with the larger cities. The truck stops could also be a popular place for traffickers.

In the United States, human trafficking is a $32 billion industry, more than Google, Nike and Starbucks combined. In the world, about 27 million people are being sold in this industry, Elliott said.

The internet especially helped the industry boom as it protects the perpetrators – less than one percent of which are ever prosecuted – behind the screen.

“We’ve got to get the community aware that this is a problem,” Elliott said.

The average age of the victims is 12 to 13 years old, Elliott said. Their life expectancy is only seven years after being sold into the industry for the first time.

Runaways and homeless young people are the most vulnerable to being forced into the illegal trade, but Elliott said anyone could be a victim.

“Any child can be a victim,” Elliott said. “It doesn’t matter their race or religion. It can be children of all ages.”

Elliott said residents of the area can help by educating others of the issue, raising funds for the organization or by volunteering to help in many different areas from visiting detention centers to helping at the Triumph House, where 8-13 girls can live and receive counseling and an education after being rescued from trafficking.

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