BRYAN, Texas — Within Brazos County, the youngest sex trafficking victim recently served by advocacy nonprofit Unbound, was just 12 years old.
Unbound of Bryan-College Station has assisted a total of 54 people identified as victims of human trafficking in Aggieland. A number of these victims were juveniles.
"Most, if not all, of the clients we work with have a very close relationship with the person who’s been exploiting them; whether it’s a family member, someone they’re in a very close relationship with, or even someone they're in a dating relationship with," said Amanda Buenger, executive director for Unbound B/CS.
Unfortunately, where there is a demand for human trafficking, there will be some supply. And based on research by the Brazos County district attorney, the market is here.
“We worked with the attorney general’s office to do a prostitution sting, to see what the demand was for trafficking in this area," said Jarvis Parsons, Brazos County DA. "It was a few months ago, and in one day I believe we got nine different johns.”
Experts say the Brazos Valley's proximity to Houston, a major trafficking hub, is compounded by the frequency of large events hosted in Bryan and College Station.
Two years ago, several local agencies and nonprofits worked alongside the office of the governor, to come up with action plans for responding to a child sex trafficking incident. This week, the protocols have been written up and finalized.
“What we’ve been doing over the last few years (is) mapping out what we would do if a child shows up in any and all sectors of law enforcement," said Parsons. "[That includes] child protective services, law enforcement, Unbound, prosecutors – what if they show up as a defendant?”
These protocols are important,because experts say child sex trafficking isn’t as cut-and-dry and easy to identify as it is in TV crime dramas.
The new task force is comprised of groups such as Unbound, Baylor Scott & White, Scotty’s House, and nearly all local law enforcement agencies.