Texas has about 313,000 people who have been coerced or forced into prostitution or some other form of modern slavery, according to estimates by researchers studying human trafficking in that state.
Many of those people live under conditions of servitude or debt bondage and another 79,000 are children or young adults who have been coerced and deceived into prostitution, based upon a study that was recently released by the Institute on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault at the University of Texas’ School of Social Work.
The researchers explained their estimates are conservative; they are hopeful that this study will provide a reference point for members of law enforcement who are working to reduce such crime, including those in the Houston area who expect an uptick in sex trafficking as the Feb. 5 Super Bowl approaches.
Authorities have acknowledged that Texas, as one of the largest states in the country, is a hub for human trafficking in the U.S. and that the problem is particularly acute in Houston.
The scope of human trafficking has been difficult to measure largely because data has focused primarily on identified victims, according to the report. So researchers in 2014 began collaborating with other groups on an extensive mapping project that mined various databases, surveyed social service agencies that aid victims, and used other sources to obtain a more accurate tally.
Noel Busch-Armendariz is the institute’s director: “This is our first glimpse into the scope and impact of human trafficking in Texas. Few states have this kind of insight into the number of people being exploited. And more importantly, each count reflects a human being living among us in slavery-like conditions.”
The study found that children and young adults who are homeless or in the foster care system have the highest risk of becoming involved in sex trafficking. It also showed that the greater number of victims of labor trafficking are found in construction, cleaning services and restaurant kitchen work.