HUMAN TRAFFICKING UNIT/FWPD
Human Trafficking Unit
The mission of the Human Trafficking Unit is to identify and rescue victims of human trafficking leading to the prosecution of human traffickers and to promote public awareness of human trafficking within Fort Worth.
After several female Honduran human trafficking victims were rescued from Fort Worth’s north side bars in 2002, and after that, the rescue of 79 undocumented aliens from within a tractor trailer in 2004, FWPD felt the need to address the problem of human trafficking within its community.
In the summer of 2005, 31 area law enforcement agencies (LEA’s) including Fort Worth and social service providers (NGO’s) formed the North Texas Anti-Trafficking Taskforce (NTATT) to develop working relationships leading to the increase of victim-centered rescue and restoration of human trafficking victims. Today, the NTATT has grown to approximately 40 members and serves the northern district of the Attorney General’s office (54 counties).
In December 2006, FWPD was awarded a three-year federal grant by the United States’ Department of Justice (DOJ) to develop a Human Trafficking Unit. This grant expired; however, the unit continued to exist within the Support Bureau, composed of just one detective.
On February 1, 2016, the Tarrant County 5-Stones Taskforce was created. This taskforce is an extension of the Fort Worth Police Department that responds to domestic minor sex trafficking and is led by a civilian Program Coordinator.
In July 2016, the Major Case Unit assumed responsibility for the Human Trafficking Unit and expanded it by several positions. The Unit investigates possible human trafficking operations, rescues potential victims and promotes public awareness of human trafficking, supporting the activities of the NTATT. Additionally, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), Homeland Security Investigations, and FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigations) agents work in collaboration with the Unit.
Structure & Duties of the Human Trafficking Unit
The Human Trafficking Unit is currently composed of three full-time employees:
- Civilian program coordinator
The Detective handles all human trafficking investigations and reports generated, initiates undercover investigations and special details, spearheads investigations with outside agencies such as the FBI, and works with state and federal prosecutors in human trafficking cases. He or she has the ability to pull the team together to ensure federal prosecution of the perpetrator and service provision to the victim through NTATT.
The Officer assists the detective and federal agencies such as the FBI in investigations; conducts human trafficking trainings to FWPD officers as well as training for new police recruits; speaks to local nonprofits, churches, and community members on human trafficking; serves as a liaison to the NTATT; coordinates social, legal and health services for rescued victims through Mosaic Family Services, Inc. (and through DHHS and DOL); and works in tandem with the program coordinator to ensure the objectives and goals of the program are met.
The Program Coordinator supports sworn personnel in the Human Trafficking Unit by managing the FWPD’s taskforce responding to juvenile sex trafficking (Tarrant County 5-Stones Taskforce), providing educational presentations, and developing local Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) partnerships to reduce the load on the HTRU and FWPD. This position also coordinates the case management aspect of high-risk juvenile response efforts; serves as the public contact for all community interactions and collaborative efforts; develops media relations and publicity activities to foster community involvement and heighten awareness of trafficking issues; and performs a variety of professional tasks in support of the unit.
FWPD Human Trafficking Unit
Tarrant County 5-Stones Taskforce
ABOUT HUMAN TRAFFICKING
What is human trafficking?
In a word, trafficking in persons is slavery. It is the illegal trade in human beings through abduction, the use or threat of force, deception, fraud or sale for purposes of sexual exploitation or forced labor. It is a multinational, organized criminal industry that generates $9 billion a year in profit and is the 2nd most lucrative exploit in today’s world. Human trafficking is always a felony!
Does trafficking happen in Fort Worth?
Yes! Texas is one of the top three states in the nation for human trafficking, and DFW is particularly vulnerable because it sits on the corridor of I-35 and I-20, dangerously close to the Mexican border with easy access to the rest of the country via major freeways. There have been dozens of investigations into possible human trafficking offenses in Fort Worth in the past several years, from very small operations to large organized crime and cartel activity.
What is the difference between trafficking and smuggling?
Many people use trafficking and smuggling synonymously, causing a lot of confusion. In reality, both crimes are very different. The bullet points below explain what these differences are:
- Always international, a breach of a border (a crime against a border)
- Relationship between the smuggler and the “client” ends once they have reached their destination; can be a “business” transaction
- Can become trafficking if the client is forced to provide labor/services
- Always a crime against a person (does not require movement)
- Can be international or intra-national (people can be enslaved regardless of whether they have crossed state or national lines)
- The trafficker maintains control over the victim
- Involves some type of forced labor or services
Who are trafficking victims?
It is estimated that approximately 17,500 people trafficked into the United States each year, and most are women and children, coming from all over the world. Additionally, there are thousands of men, women, and children who are U.S. citizens and are now commercially exploited throughout U.S. neighborhoods in restaurants, strip clubs, and prostitution rings. These victims may be of any age, race, or economic status.
Many victims are forced to work in the sex trade in areas like prostitution, porn, “full service” massage parlors, and strip clubs. However, victims may be forced into various forms of work including domestic servitude, factory work, or migrant agricultural work.
Where does it occur?
Trafficking can happen anywhere there is a need for labor, money, or sexual acts. These areas may include:
- Domestic situations (housekeeping, nannies, servants)
- Construction projects/day labor
- Massage parlors
- Bars/Strip Clubs
- Agricultural farms and ranches
What is the scope of the problem?
A recent U.S. Department of State estimate indicates between 800,000 and 900,000 people are trafficked across international borders annually (this estimate does not include trafficking among Americans which is estimated to include approximately 300,000 citizens annually) (Department of State, 2003 Trafficking in Persons Report). Some estimates argue that there are 27 million slaves that exist in the world at this moment.
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Amritage recently stated that human trafficking is so profitable that “our intelligence community estimates it will outstrip the illicit trade in guns and narcotics within a decade.”
What are the signs that someone is being trafficked?
If you think that you have encountered a potential victim of trafficking look for the signs:
- Evidence that the person is under someone else’s control
- Evidence that the person cannot leave or quit his/her work
- Evidence of trauma and/or abuse (rape, bruises, battery)
- Evidence that the person is extremely fearful and/or depressed
- The person may not speak English
- The person may have recently been brought to the U.S. from Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa or Latin America
- The person does not personally possess their immigration documents or identification.
How to help
If you become suspicious that you know of a victim or are suspicious of a location, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline or Crime Stoppers (817-469-8477).
In addition, if the offense happened in or near Fort Worth, submit an email report to the Human Trafficking Unit (817-392-4554; firstname.lastname@example.org).
If you are interested in community awareness, advocacy, or collaborative agency efforts, you may contact Tarrant County 5-Stones to become more involved.
FWPD Human Trafficking Unit
Tarrant County 5-Stones Taskforce
National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline