Homeland Security officer says human trafficking happens in panhandle

Homeland Security officer says human trafficking happens in panhandle

AMARILLO - Human trafficking could be going on in places you visit everyday.

That was the message local authorities wanted to convey in an informational meeting hosted by the League of Women Voters Tuesday evening in Amarillo.

Right now statistics of human trafficking in our area are hard to pinpoint because of unreported incidents, or cases prosecuted on different charges.

But an officer with the Department of Homeland Security says it does happen in our area whether it be passing through on Interstate 40 or actually in our community, and the problems aren't only connected to prostitution.

Victims of human trafficking can be forced to work on ranches and farms, in nail salons, hotels, restaurants, construction sites, or even as nannies in people's homes.

A representative with Family Support Services in Amarillo says she deals with many young women in the panhandle who have a hard time asking for help, because they feel ashamed.

"A lot of times victims are misidentified as criminals because they're arrested for prostitution, for drugs, for things related to the behaviors they've been forced to participate in," Crisis Intervention Specialist Angie Stovall said. "And what's important to know is that these victims don't choose thier lifestyle."

46 percent of human trafficking victims are forced into prostitution. The rest into some sort of forced labor.

If you have any suspicions about anyone in the community, you're asked to contact local authorities or the Department of Homeland Security.