State investigators add teeth to fight human trafficking

Ken Paxton
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks during a hearing in Austin, Texas. On Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015, Kent Schaffer, a special prosecutor, told the New York Times that Paxton has been indicted on felony charges that accuse the Republican of misleading investors before taking over as the state's top law enforcement officer. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

AUSTIN (KXAN) – The Texas Attorney General launched a new unit to fight the growing problem of human trafficking. Last year in Texas, callers reported 330 trafficking cases to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. Texas had the second most number of calls into the center.

Out of all the calls, most of the callers came from females and one third of the calls were children or teenagers, most were United States citizens. Up until now, the AG’s office has done little to fight the problem by itself.

In 2014, we spoke to a victim of child sex trafficking who said she was lured away from her family into a nearby house. She took drugs and alcohol and over several weeks, slowly moved into prostitution.

“When I left this house, I was a virgin. But when I came back I slept with many men, and I wish that didn’t happen,” said Darcy (which is not the victim’s real name).

“She didn’t like herself at all. She was unclean,” said Darcy’s mom, describing the first time she saw her after she left.

“This could be your child. This could be your child’s friend. It could be someone in your family. It could be a relative. It could be anyone that could be taken advantage in this way. That’s why you should care,” said Kirsta Melton, who is now the person in charge of the Human Trafficking and Transnational Organization Crime Unit in the AG’s Office.

She says adding five investigators will help find evidence to put criminals away.

“You got to have a team of people. A prosecutor can’t solve those problems,” said Melton.

Before the department change, the Attorney General’s office only had one prosecutor assigned to human trafficking cases and that person could only investigate caseswhen asked by another department. Now the new unit will add three prosecutors—one of which is an expert in civil racketeering charges—five investigators dedicated to human trafficking cases, one forensic accountant and crime analyst and one victim advocate and counselor.

“My plan as long as I’m here, we’re going to be focused on this,” said Attorney General Ken Paxton. The top cop in Texas created the unit after lawmakers gave his office the authority last session. “We want to stop it. So at some point we hope this is gone. That’s probably unrealistic, but as long as I’m around we’re going to be dealing with this issue.”

The Texas Department of Safety says human trafficking is more than a $30 billion a year industry. That industry now has the focus from not just local district attorney’s offices but the State of Texas.

To learn more about human trafficking and the work of the Texas Attorney General’s Office, click here. 

For the full interview with the director of the Human Trafficking Unit, Kirsta Melton, watch below.

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