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Community forum aims to curb human trafficking

Posted at 3:56 PM, May 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-30 23:54:44-04

KILLEEN, TX — Community leaders in the fight to end human trafficking hosted an educational forum at the Killeen Community Center on Thursday.

The goal is to open up a conversation about the crisis.

"There is about 12 million people in America that are taken by these traffickers. I call them monsters," said Killeen council member Shirley Fleming.

"Texas! Save Our Youth", a local advocacy group, is holding the event just weeks after a major trafficking sting. The Bell County Sheriff's Department conducted the three-day "anti-sex trafficking operation" starting on May 6 in Killeen.

Officials say 15 people were arrested and nine possible victims were identified. Nonprofits offered support services to the survivors.

"Some of the people that they arrested, a lot of the people here in Killeen, they know them. They were running around, walking around, talking, having fun with those same people," said Fleming.

A representative from UnBound Waco said most of the women were eager to receive the services. The youngest victim was 18 years old.

"People have an idea of what they think a victim of sex trafficking looks like," said Killeen police chief Charles Kimble. "It could be a 14 year old boy, it could be a 33 year old worker in a restaurant."

The scale of the trafficking problem was one of the major points at the forum.

"We think that there are over 300,000 victims of human trafficking in this state. There are 400 cases of human trafficking that were reported last year in the state alone," said Tom Smith, Asst. Attorney General for Outreach.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline is always available to assist anyone in need. They can be reached at 1-888-373-7888 (TTY: 711)