DPS: 30 children found in human trafficking operation

Published: May. 15, 2023 at 9:34 AM CDT
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MIDLAND-ODESSA, Texas (KOSA) - On Tuesday May 9, Texas Department of Public Safety Criminal Investigations Division (CID) ran a missing and exploited child operation and found a total of 30 children. The age of youngest child recovered was 13 years of age.

Law enforcement’s goal was to find or recover children reported missing in Midland and Ector counties. The process also targeted people seeking to exploit and victimize trafficking victims, and identified and apprehend people suspected to be involved in human trafficking.

Special Agents were also able to identify and open additional investigations.

Multiple agencies assisted in these investigations including DPS’ CID, Texas Highway Patrol, Homeland Security Investigations, Odessa and Midland Police Departments, Ector and Midland County Sheriff’s Offices, United States Marshal Services, Midland and Ector ISD Police Departments, Ector and Midland County District Attorney’s Offices.

In addition, the operation was assisted by multiple civilian entities: DFPS/CPS, Harmony Homes Children’s Advocacy Center, Midland Rape Crisis Children’s Advocacy Center, DPS Victims Services, Midland County Juvenile Probation Office, Midland Memorial and Odessa Medical Center SANE nurses.

If you are a victim of human trafficking or have information about this type of criminal activity, please get in touch with the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888.

Executive Director of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Melissa Snow says they are extremely excited to hear of the success of the Texas Department of Public Safety’s operation that recovered 30 missing children.

Snow says while we don’t know how many of the children were exploited through child sex trafficking, every one of them was vulnerable to trafficking.

“Whether this operation interrupted active abuse that was occurring or prevented that abuse from occurring, it is a significant success that we are cheering them on for,” said Snow.

Snow says every day they see reports of children exploited through sex trafficking.

Last year they received over 25,000 reports of runaway children and of those 1 in 6 were likely sex trafficking victims.

“There’s a direct correlation to kids who have run away and who traffickers are targeting and recruiting. So, what we know is when law enforcement looks into this topic and communities become more aware, we receive an increased amount of tips and what we see is corresponding recoveries,” said Snow.

DPS worked with a number of agencies to complete this operation including Ector and Midland County Sheriff’s Offices, Odessa and Midland Police Departments, and U.S. Marshal Services.

Snow says it takes a concerted effort for specialized law enforcement to pull off a successful operation, as traffickers are constantly moving.

“City to city, sometimes it can be state to state, coast to coast we see them constantly moving. Its to kind of confuse the victims so they don’t know where they are, how to ask for help or they’re not familiar with their surroundings. That’s a form of control that they can leverage,” said Snow.

Traffickers will use social media to gain information about their victims and use it against them

“These vulnerabilities create opportunities where traffickers will use them to make promises about connections belonging to love  the things that are unmet needs in these child’s lives; they quickly begin to fulfill those unmet needs and then use that later against this young person for control,” said Snow.

Snow says it’s also crucial to have victim assistance which was seen in the DPS operation, as the way the young people recovered are treated during recovery can lay the foundation for long term healing.

Snow says it is important to immediately report a child missing to law enforcement. After doing so you can also call 1-800 the lost to report that  missing child to the national center so they can work with law enforcement and help locate and hopefully recover that child.