Less than two weeks after a Longview prostitution sting, the Zonta Club of Longview took the next step of preventative action.
Zonta Club of Longview on Tuesday discussed violence against women and children during a meeting at Johnny Cace’s Seafood and Steak House. The event featured four speakers, educating a crowd of Zonta members and guests.
“How many of you have had a friend tell you about sex trafficking?” Partners in Prevention representative Brenda Buck asked the audience.
One hand rose.
While most of the audience attended a similar Zonta human trafficking awareness event last year, the listeners still experienced little to no conversation about this crime among friends.
“We’ve tried to raise awareness, because that’s really the best defense we have,” Buck said.
The event came less than two weeks after Homeland Security and the Longview Police Department led an undercover prostitution sting that netted two arrests and several arrest warrants filed. Speakers made the link between prostitution and human trafficking.
Worldwide, Saudi Arabia’s 2013 population of 27 million people equates to the recorded victims of human trafficking. However, this particular escalating crime of coerced bondage is creeping to the backyard of East Texas.
In 2008, Texans represented 38 percent of National Trafficking Resource Center phone calls, according to the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights.
The United States Commission on Civil Rights estimates that the business of human trafficking draws in about $32 billion annually most often through money-laundered businesses such as, nail salons, hotels, restaurants, massage therapy and reflexology spas, Buck further explained.
During a year’s time, unpaid wages of victims ring up to $20 billion due to the continuous and recyclable use of women, children and men, panel member Longview Police spokeswoman Kristie Brian added.
The U.S. Department of Justice organizes human trafficking into two categories: sex trafficking and involuntary servitude.
Texas has one of the largest borders in the United States, which further allows the longest continuous un-tolled freeway, Interstate-10, to serve as a catalyst for crime, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
“This is a very complex issue and has several factors from local authorities to state authorities to federal authorities,” said Louellen Lowe, a representative of U.S. Sen. John Cornyn’s office. “There is no silver bullet but hopefully by looking at these facts, there are some things that the government can do to make it better.”
Cornyn, R-Texas, unveiled legislation in Longview in February to give agencies that are battling sex trafficking a funding source in their effort to return young women to normal life.
The bill, which is being sponsored in the U.S. House of Representatives by Kingwood Republican Ted Poe, funnels fees from prosecution of sex traffickers into a fund from which law enforcement and anti-sex trade agencies can draw.
Cornyn said in February that his bill has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee of which he is a member. Ten senators and 54 House members, 10 of those from Texas, had signed on as co-sponsors in February.