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Locally-based organization steps up national fight against human trafficking amid pandemic

Published: Jan. 11, 2021 at 6:37 PM CST
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A national human trafficking organization based in Central Texas is providing additional resources--and warnings--this month.

January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, but in 2021, it’s also happening amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which is causing additional concerns for experts in the field.

“We’re very concerned about the grooming that’s been happening throughout the pandemic,” said Susan Peters, national director of UnBound.

Headquartered in Waco, UnBound is a non-profit organization that’s leading the fight against traffickers by supporting survivors and providing resources to the community.

Peters says the pandemic has brought a new set of challenges, especially for potential school-aged victims, due to increase computer literacy and screen usage.

“Now, young people are on their devices all day long, and this gives them access to perpetrators messaging them trying to build relationships,” said Peters. “They’re making new ‘friends’, and those friends can be dangerous.”

According to a University of Texas study, almost 79,000 young people 25 and under are sex-trafficked at any given time in Texas.

“The government designates a whole month for us to be awakened to this,” said Peters. “It’s a good opportunity for businesses, for churches, for community members to be educated on how to identify a trafficking victim so they can get help.”

In honor of trafficking awareness month, UnBound Waco and the Heart of Texas Human Trafficking Coalition have released three, one-minute videos depicting human trafficking situations to help community members spot and report suspicious signs.

“One is of young boys being trafficked because boys are trafficking victims also, secondly is labor trafficking, and third is familial trafficking which, unfortunately, we see many victims where a family member is trafficking a young person for drugs,” said Peters. “So this year our big focus is getting out those messages so that people will recognize these trafficking victims within our communities and be able to call law enforcement to get help.”

Peters says their goal is to get 1 million views by the end of the month.

To get the local community further involved, UnBound will be hosting a ‘Not in My City’ event at 1 p.m. on Jan. 30 at Highland Baptist Church.

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