Waco: Human trafficking stats underscore importance of local efforts

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WACO, Texas (KWTX) New data from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center show that 433 cases of human trafficking were reported to the NHTRC from Texas in 2015.

That includes 337 cases of sex trafficking and 63 cases of labor trafficking, which is down from 452 cases reported in 2014.

The statistics underscore the importance of local efforts to fight human trafficking.

"We have cases, schools are seeing cases," said Susan Peters with Unbound Waco, a nonprofit that fights human trafficking.

"When we started Unbound in 2012 everyone said there wasn't an issue here," Peters said.

Unbound, along with other nonprofits and law enforcement agencies, started The Heart of Texas Human Trafficking Round table to share resources in the fight to end human trafficking.

"We're training our troopers out here and law enforcement to go beyond the traffic stop so that if we do see something like that they go beyond the traffic stop to investigate that," said Department of Public Safety Trooper D.L. Wilson, who is part of the round table.

Statewide it is easier to measure changes from year to year, but it's difficult locally because last year was the first year a collaborative effort was made to stop the problem.

"The effort has increased as opposed to one year or two years ago because we're not doing our stings," McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara said.

"We've teamed up with Homeland Security and we've also teamed up with Unbound so there is a concerted effort on each agencies part to stop human trafficking."

Peters said they did see an increase in cases in 2015 but she doesn't necessarily see that as a bad sign.

"That's a lot but we believe there will be a lot more," Peters said.

"Awareness has risen, so people have been able to identify victims and try to seek out help for them as well as victims are becoming aware that they are actually victims."

The DPS said that people can help stop the spread of human trafficking by looking out for suspicious circumstances and reporting them through the DPS website iwatchtx.org.