Human trafficking on the rise during COVID-19, local groups say

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, human trafficking has been on the rise.
Published: Aug. 5, 2020 at 5:45 PM CDT
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) – As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, human trafficking has been on the rise.

“It’s highly relational,” Jessica Sykora with Unbound Waco said.

According to Unbound Now, Texas is the second highest state for calls to the national trafficking hotline.

“It’s often initiated online and traffickers are always looking for people with vulnerabilities,” Sykora said.

“People with poverty, low self-worth, trouble at home; emotional, physical and sexual abuse, all these things make a person more easily exploited,” she said.

Aware Central Texas, with offices in Killeen and Belton, has reported 10 confirmed victims of trafficking within the last five months.

Suzanne Armour with Families in Crisis in Killeen, says while the increase in reports and victims is concerning, she believes people reporting human trafficking is a very good sign.

And, she says, the government is catching on.

The U.S. Justice Department is providing more than $35 million to help organizations around the country provide safe housing to victims of human trafficking.

No funds were awarded to any Central Texas groups, but two organizations from the Houston area, Santa Maria Hostel, Inc. and Family Time Crisis and Counseling Center, will receive grants of $500,000.

“I think because of the magnitude of it, it’s lent itself a sense of urgency to solving the problem,” Armour said.

“Spread the word,” Armour said.

“If you know where someone can go that’s been in human trafficking, please share that information because you might be saving a life.”

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