Senator Van de Putte Raises Awareness of Human Trafficking
(Austin) — Texas was one of the first states to introduce legislation criminalizing human trafficking. During the 81st Legislative Session, Senator Van de Putte authored SB 89, which was amended onto HB 4009 filed by Representative Randy Weber (R-29). The legislation created a statewide Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force. Housed in the Attorney General's Office, the Task Force is comprised of law enforcement agencies, social service providers, non-governmental organizations, legal representatives, and state agencies, all of which comprise the front line against this deplorable crime.
This year, Senator Van de Putte continues the push for greater public awareness of this problem by filing Senate Bill 98. The bill contains enhanced penalties for human traffickers, provides additional protections for children who are trafficked for sexual exploitation, and extends the civil statute of limitations for victims. Her legislative efforts are necessary given the startling statistics of this crime.
- Shared Hope International, an anti-trafficking organization, estimates that from 100,000 to 300,000 children each year are victimized in prostitution in America.
- The U.S. Justice Department estimates that approximately 50,000 women and children are trafficked into the United States annually.
- Texas has more calls into the national human trafficking hotline than any other state. (http://actioncenter.polarisproject.org/component/content/article/562)
- The Department of State estimates that since 2001, more than 20 percent of the total identified victims nationwide have been located in Texas.
Human trafficking is a deplorable form of modern-day slavery that has become a problem of global proportions and unfortunately, impacts San Antonio as well. San Antonio is seen as a hub for human trafficking due to its proximity to the I-10 corridor, which has been identified by the Department of Justice as a major trafficking route in the United States.
Last month the Bexar County District Attorney's Office prosecuted its first human trafficking trial. The Court found the offender guilty of super aggravated sexual assault of a minor, aggravated kidnapping and compelling prostitution of a 13-year old.
"It breaks my heart to hear stories of human trafficking of minors occurring in my community," said Senator Van de Putte. "One of my highest priorities this legislative session is to continue to strengthen our laws to prevent this crime, aid our victims, and prosecute offenders."
President Obama recognizes January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention month and declares Tuesday, January 11, as National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.