NewsLocal NewsIn Your NeighborhoodMcLennan CountyWaco

Actions

Texas continues to rank 2nd for the most human trafficking cases in the U.S.

Posted at 6:48 PM, Jan 11, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-11 19:48:49-05

WACO, Texas — Texas has the second highest reported number of human trafficking cases in the country.

The most recent data from the National Human Trafficking Hotline said there were more than 1,700 victims in 2021.

Karla Solomon spent years under other people’s control starting when she was a child — she’s a survivor.

Karla recalls her state of mind leading up to her freedom.

“I remember when I was walking out of the hotel there was a bunch of people behind me, and they were calling and shouting, and I had no idea that they were calling my name," Solomon said.

"I was so, I guess brain washed, that I didn't realize that they were talking to me and it actually took one of the agents to get in my face and ask me, 'Are you Karla Solomon',".

Karla now has a thriving family and has trained hundreds of thousands of people to help fight against human trafficking and helps survivors through Mercy Gate Ministries.

She’s putting criminals behind bars by sharing her story.

"My whole mission is that when I leave this world, I just want to hear 'Job well done,'."

She’s not alone in the fight — Kristi Hayes is with Unbound Now Waco.

"Training is a big piece — it’s one of our main pillars of what we do," Hayes said.

"I think in the last 11 years, we’ve trained 192,000 professionals and youth and that means going into hospitals, law enforcement training them on what human trafficking is, identify victims.”

Artificial intelligence, or AI is also helping by taking information and connecting the dots.

Clark Frogley is an ex-FBI official and Head of Financial Crime Solutions at Quantexa.

"You can now connect, the owner of this massage parlor shares an email address with the owner of that massage parlor, and there’s five other people that are all tied back and two of them have criminal records, and one of them is on a watch list for human trafficking," Frogley said.

It’s serving justice faster.

“We’re seeing investigations for example that use to take literally weeks and months to do are being done now in sometimes hours," Frogley said.

While the fight is still on going, Solomon told me her trafficker is serving decades behind bars and she didn’t have to testify for it to happen.

"Typical indicators right of human trafficking type of activity, is you usually end up with a group of individuals and someone is there managing, herding, controlling their actions," Solomon said.

"They’re not allowed to be out on their own they’re not allowed to be out doing things.”

Frogley spent decades investigating this global crisis and looking at the signs.

“Really looking at people’s behavior in a group," he said.

Data shows that human trafficking in Texas is most common at spas, massage venues, or hotels involving adult women who can appear nervous.

"They often times won’t speak English.”

But Frogley says human trafficking can happen anywhere and anyone can fall prey.

But remember, if something doesn’t look or seem right walk up and say something.

"Sometimes it may be nothing but I would rather air on the side of caution, that’s why I say sometimes you might want to just ask, try to say something as a polite concerned individual," Frogley said.

"That might help give the validation that you need that somethings just not right."

If it still doesn’t feel right, Frogley recommends going to find help.