Human Trafficking contacts:
*National Human Trafficking Hotline, 888-373-7888
*Tarrant County Crimestoppers, 817-469-8477
*Human trafficking detective, 817-392-4554
*Five Stones, 817-392-4269
*Fort Worth Police, 911
The Fort Worth Police Department discussed how it deals with human trafficking in a presentation to the Fort Worth City Council on May 16.
Fort Worth Assistant Police Chief Ken Dean led the presentation during the council’s work session.
Dean cited statistics from the University of Texas in December of 2016 showing that 79,000 minors and or youths in Texas were victims of sex trafficking, along with 234,000 victims of labor trafficking.
He stressed that human smuggling is not human trafficking. However, the former can turn into the latter very easily and often does. For example, those smuggled across the border into the United States can find their fees to the smugglers increased upon arrival to the point that the only way to pay them is to “work them off.”
The major victims are immigrants, drug addicts and runaways, Dean’s report noted. Immigrants, in particular, often do not come forward to cooperate with law enforcement officials, even though they are victims, he said.
“Many individuals are afraid if discovered we’ll deport them,” Dean said. “I’m here to tell you that is not our focus.”
Dean said the city of Fort Worth has one full-time detective devoted to human trafficking, along with one full-time officer and two Homeland Security agents. The Major Case Unit, with six detectives and one sergeant, and a Civilian Task Force coordinator are also working on human trafficking.
The Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston metro areas are the largest targets for human traffickers in the state, he said. In addition major thoroughfares – Interstates 20, 30, 35 and 45 – also make Dallas-Fort Worth a prime target.
From January 2016 to January 2017, Dean said, 28 cases were investigated in Fort Worth. They included 27 juvenile sex traffic cases and one labor traffic case of a Honduran national.
From January to April of this year, 26 cases have already been investigated, he said. Of those, 24 were for juvenile sex trafficking and two were for adult sex trafficking.
Dean said that one key word describes the challenge facing his department and others across the nation as they fight human trafficking.
“The very word trafficking means these folks are very mobile,” he said. “It is very critical that we need to move quickly.”
The recent Polywood Crips case, a local case, was noted. The Polywood Crip gang was found to have been trafficking adults and juveniles for three years.
Sgt. John Phillips said seven juveniles and 11 adult victims were discovered. It resulted in nine convictions, with a grand jury looking at seven more indictments, he said.
Convictions in the case have so far ranged from 30 years in prison to five years’ probation.
Phillips said the case began with a mother looking for her runaway daughter.
“That victim was able to give additional victims. It became a domino effect,” Phillips said. “This shows you how these cases can go from a little information and snowball over time.”
Fort Worth Human Traffic Task Force Coordinator Felicia Grantham said the Tarrant County Five Stones Task Force is at work combating sex trafficking and exploitation of minors. The organization combines help through various levels of government, community agencies and individuals.
“We are incorporating people from all over Tarrant County in this effort,” Grantham said.
Among the work Five Stones is doing is reaching out to youngsters before they become runaways, along with the creation of a “john” school. In this program, those convicted of solicitation have the chance to receive reduced sentences and help curb the problem in the future.
“There’s a lot of interest for these ‘johns’ to try to break the habit they have of going after young children for prostitution,” she said.
Dean added that the problem is being addressed at the state level. He cited the Governor’s Comprehensive Community Response to Sex Trafficking.
“We can put a lot of people in jail, but there’s a lot of people standing behind them,” Dean said. “Everybody’s ready to come to the table. Everybody’s ready to help us fight this issue.”
Dean said the Fort Worth Police Department is also working to educate field personnel and teach officers to ask the right questions.
“We treat and look at people from the victim’s side first,” he said.