Amarillo, TX - Local agencies are teaming up to combat an issue they say is thriving not only in the country, but in our area.
There are as many as 40,000 human trafficking cases reported each year and with Texas ranking second for those calls, local organizations want everyone to be aware of what to look out for.
An investigation in march led to the recovery from this hotel of six juveniles believed to be victims of human trafficking. And while it is not a new issue, officials say many simply do not think Amarillo is the place for something like this.
However director of the Traffick Stop organization Tomi Grover tells me the two major interstate highways provide the perfect infrastructure for potential trafficking.
"You have some convergence with a number of things happening in this community with a high international population refugee resettlement," says Grover. "You also have the oil boom industry and things that are happening in the economic development areas that bring a lot of people in through this area. And so it makes it a targeted area."
Grover also says with technology advancing and youth having easier access to it, it's no surprise human trafficking is the second leading criminal industry in the world.
"There's always a supply when there is a demand. And the demand for commercial sex and commercial sex with children has been increasing exponentially. And most of those kids are being bought and sold online through the internet. They're not walking the streets," says Grover.
Now Grover is teaming up with local organizations to educate the community on what to be on the lookout for. Potter-Randall County Emergency Communications District and the Panhandle Regional 911 Network are getting the word out through a series of human trafficking events.
"And if it's happening right under our noses as law enforcement professionals and we didn't know it, then what do we need to teach the community and so they began developing a plan to educate the community."
Grover says she hopes the Amarillo program can be a model for what can be done across the state to educate communities.
On Thursday, August 6, a lunch and discussion will be at the Amarillo College West Campus Lecture Hall from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. and the first 100 people will get a free lunch.