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Harris County Attorney Launches New Effort To Fight Human Trafficking In Houston

Research by the organization Children At Risk indicates there are more than 200 massage parlors that are suspect of engaging in human trafficking and prostitution.

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan says his office will notify the massage parlors that are suspected to be fronts for criminal activities that they don’t have a license and, if they don’t end their operations, they will sue them with the ultimate goal of shutting them down.
Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan (center) says his office will notify the massage parlors that are suspected to be fronts for criminal activities that they don’t have a license and, if they don’t end their operations, they will sue them with the ultimate goal of shutting them down.
Robert Sanborn, president and CEO of Children At Risk, says his organization has identified more than 200 massage parlors that are likely engaging in human trafficking and prostitution.
Robert Sanborn, president and CEO of Children At Risk, (center) says his organization has identified more than 200 massage parlors that are likely engaging in human trafficking and prostitution.

The Harris County Attorney’s Office and the organization Children at Risk are collaborating to increase the fight against human trafficking in Houston.

Children at Risk has researched this issue with methods that include reviewing online advertising for massage parlors and has identified more than 200 establishments of this kind that are suspect of engaging in human trafficking and prostitution.

The Harris County Attorney’s office is initially going after 25 that are some of the most popular in Houston.

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan explained at a press conference that they will notify them they don’t have a license and, if they don’t end their operations, they will sue them with the ultimate goal of shutting them down.

“The enslavement of women and children and forcing them to work as prostitutes is just plain evil,” Ryan noted.

Robert Sanborn, president and CEO of Children at Risk, emphasized the scope of the problem by explaining that “the demand exists in Houston every day of the year.”

“There are men that are going out there that are buying young girls, that are buying young boys, that are frequenting these massage parlors, cantinas, that are going online,” Sanborn added.

Human trafficking numbers have traditionally been difficult to track, but a recent study by the University of Texas estimates that more than 300,000 people are victims of this crime in our state and almost 80,000 are minors and youth who are forced into sex trafficking.

Tim Navarre, a major with the Criminal Investigations Bureau at the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, noted the demand for prostitution is prevalent and detailed that “in the last 20 days, we’ve actually arrested a hundred and eighty four Johns in just seven operations.”

Navarre clarified the term Johns means purchasers of illegal sex services.

Attorneys from the law firm Reed Smith LLP will assist Harris County with the cases and lawsuits that originate from this initiative.

Law enforcement and experts have identified Houston as the city with the highest number of human trafficking cases in Texas and as one of the major hubs for this type of crime in the United States.

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