AUSTIN, Texas - The Austin Police Department will be using social media and other platforms to raise awareness of human trafficking during the month of January.
January is known nationwide as Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and APD launched a month-long initiative with a virtual press conference on Tuesday. The goal is to bring awareness to an issue that can be happening quietly within communities across the country, including Austin.
"Trafficking is not an over there problem," said Holly Christine Hayes, founder and CEO of The Sanctuary Project and a trafficking survivor herself. "It’s a here problem, and it’s a now problem."
The Sanctuary Project is one of several local nonprofits that partner with APD to offer resources to survivors of human trafficking. Other local organizations include Refugee Services of Texas, The Safe Alliance, and Allies Against Slavery.
"A lot of people aren’t aware that human trafficking does exist in Austin and is very prevalent," said Sgt. Mike Spear with the APD Human Trafficking Unit. "My unit currently works an average of 400 human trafficking cases a year."
According to a UT Austin study, there are 79,000 victims of youth and minor sex trafficking in Texas at any given time. Texas has the second-highest number of trafficking cases in the country.
Monica Charles, a local human trafficking survivor, spoke about her experience at Tuesday’s press conference.
"I met a man who said he was my boyfriend and moved me into his house somewhere in East Austin in a middle-class neighborhood," she said. "Before long he told me I also needed to provide services to other men out of our home."
Throughout January, the APD Human Trafficking Unit will be partnering with the City of Austin to educate city staff and the community on signs of human trafficking and how to help potential victims.
For more information, click here.
To reach the National Human Trafficking Hotline, call 1 (888) 7888 or text 233733.