APD, Austin nonprofits partner to raise awareness of local human trafficking

APD, Austin nonprofits promoting local human trafficking awareness

The aim is to raise awareness of a problem that can calmly arise in communities across the country, including Austin.

The Austin Police Department will use social media and other platforms to raise awareness of human trafficking in January.

January is known nationwide as Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and APD launched a month-long initiative with a virtual press conference on Tuesday. The aim is to raise awareness of a problem that can calmly arise in communities across the country, including Austin.

“Human trafficking is not a problem there,” said Holly Christine Hayes, founder and CEO of The Sanctuary Project and a human trafficking survivor herself. “There is a problem here and there is a problem now.”

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The Sanctuary Project is one of several local nonprofits that partner with APD to provide resources to trafficking survivors. Other local organizations are Refugee Services of Texas, The Safe Alliance, and Allies Against Slavery.

“A lot of people don’t realize that human trafficking is very common in Austin,” said Sgt. Mike Spear of the APD Human Trafficking Unit. “My unit currently handles an average of 400 human trafficking cases a year.”

According to a study by UT Austin, there are 79,000 victims of youth and minor sex trafficking in Texas at any given time. Texas has the second highest number of human trafficking cases in the country.

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Monica Charles, a local human trafficking survivor, shared her experience at the news conference on Tuesday.

“I met a man who said he was my friend and moved me to his house in a civil neighborhood somewhere in East Austin,” she said. “It wasn’t long before he told me I had to serve other men outside of our house as well.”

City of Austin is forming an anti-trafficking-related team at major events

Representatives from special events, economic development, the Austin Convention Center and the Austin Police plan to attend the group, which begins their meeting next Wednesday.

In January, the APD Human Trafficking Division will work with the city of Austin to educate city officials and community about signs of human trafficking and provide assistance to potential victims.

More information can be found here.

To reach the national human trafficking hotline, call 1 (888) 7888 or text 233733.

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