Advocacy groups response to Killeen Police Department prostitution sting leading to a dozen people arrested

Published: Jun. 30, 2023 at 10:08 PM CDT
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - A prostitution sting in Killeen to address the increase in complaints on the issue led to the arrest of a handful of women who were arrested and charged with prostitution.

Some advocacy groups have raised the question as to why not get the women help instead of arresting them.

Due to the increase in complaints, the Killeen Police Department said they will be doing these stings quarterly.

With that being said, some nonprofits in Central Texas say while understand people must obey the law, they believe the women in these situations should get resources, not charges.

On June 15, the department’s Organized Crime Unit led an undercover operation targeting prostitution.

According to a release from KPD, several women were charged with prostitution and four men charged with solicitation of it.

Unbound Now’s CEO, Susan Peters, said the group has been worried about prostitution in Killeen for several years and wants to identify the issue.

“Once they have the charge of prostitution on their record, it is difficult to get an apartment, it’s difficult to get any kind of funding to go back to college, it’s difficult to get a job. These are serious charges. We’ve been very concerned about Killeen. I will say we are building a great relationship with law enforcement and community partners, and excited to identify, serve, and help,” said Peters.

Most of the people charged were women.

Peters said it’s disheartening because they were taken advantage of while being in a vulnerable state.

“That’s really the trend that we want to see, is getting away from the women getting arrested and getting them the services, but holding buyers and traffickers accountable for exploring them,” said Peters.

When KWTX asked Killeen PD why they arrested the women and not try to provide resources to those who may need it, their response was, “They were arrested because they broke the law.”

Case manager of Aware Central Texas, Jessica Gresham, said she understands you must uphold the law, but there’s usually more to the story.

“They shouldn’t be arrested because we don’t know for sure. Was it forced survival sex? When it’s stuff like that, that’s why working with them and trying to figure out, ‘What is the cause? What is it that you’re missing that you’re needing,’” said Gresham.

Both nonprofits encourage survivors reach out to them for aid, call the Human Trafficking hotline number or local resources to help end the cycle of abuse.

“So, what we need to do as a community is to recognize the vulnerability and get them connected to resources because there’s a reason they’re in this life. Most of them have been exploited as very young children,” said Peters.

Unbound Now says last year, it served more than 600 trafficking victims across the state.

For those needing assistance, click the Unbound Now and Aware Central Texas websites.