WACO, Texas (KWTX) With 79,000 kids currently being trafficked in Texas, human trafficking is a statewide, underground issue, and Waco is no exception.
"Obviously I think we have an issue with individuals wanting to purchase sex," McLennan County District Attorney Abel Reyna said.
The Heart of Texas Human Trafficking Coalition held a roundtable meeting Thursday morning to discuss the underlying issues and new efforts to prevent trafficking.
A collaborative effort is underway between law enforcement, church groups, and social workers to minimize the demand for prostitution.
"If there's no buyers, there's no demand," Brett Mills, co-CEO of the non-profit group Jesus Said Love, said.
The “Stop Demand School” is an intervention and diversion program that aims to end commercial sex exploitation. It was created by Waco Police during sex stings, but Jesus Said Love is continuing the program year-round.
People who are caught purchasing or soliciting sex may take the course as part of their probation or sentence from a judge. The course consists of meeting with a sex addiction therapist, STD education and testing, and have to listen to a survivor of human trafficking tell their story.
Reyna said, "It’s not just you purchasing this good time as you might call it. There's more to the story, people are forced into labor, forced into sex, drugs potentially, there are situations in which victims are abused."
Reyna said the people paying for sex can be anyone around you. "They are baseball coaches, and teachers, and people with kids and wives and homes," he said.
The target demographic for the program are those who attempt to engage with a prostituted person with little to no criminal records, but being a part of the prostitution process perpetuates the demand for sex and leads to forced human trafficking.
“Obviously our goal is to end buying of sex in McLennan County, so if our class can help be a part of that, that's a win for everyone," he said.
The courses are held quarterly, and the profits go towards funding local human trafficking prevention and recovery efforts.