Denton County law enforcement and advocacy groups met with the public Aug. 22 to discuss information on child sex trafficking, bringing with them a bevy of statistics, prevention tips and common misconceptions.


The legal definition of child sex trafficking is to “cause, induce, persuade or attempt to cause, induce or persuade” a minor into a commercial sex act.

Statistics provided by the Children’s Advocacy Center of North Texas show Hispanic children and girls in general as the highest percentage of those trafficked. Boys are also trafficked, although cases involving them are “especially underreported,” according to the panel.

Officials with the center said 15 is the most common victim age with some cases reporting sex trafficking for children as young as 9, according to Kristen Howell, center CEO.
Zooming In

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a child will come across a human trafficker within 48 hours of running away from home, a statistic that Dustin Gossage, a county district attorney for the child abuse unit, called “alarming.”

Law enforcement is adapting, treating these runaway cases differently than in the past; The Colony police officer Brian Baker said agencies can now bring the child into specialized interviews that may unveil a deeper problem at home or some other issue causing the child to run away.

Related, officials said, is the fact that children are more likely to be trafficked by someone they have a pre-existing relationship with—a friend, a family member, or someone they met and chat with on the internet.
Zooming Out

A federal jury sentenced Denton County resident William Adam Jonathan Smith to 15 years in prison in 2020 for child sex trafficking after an anti-trafficking sting by law enforcement uncovered evidence that he was selling the sexual services of a 17-year-old girl throughout Dallas and Fort Worth.

Evidence presented at trial showed Smith had multiple minors he collected money from for their services and rented out hotel rooms for the minors and customers. He met many of the minors online, officials said.

Cases such as this are why policing the internet use of minors is “imperative” for parents and adults, county officials said.

For tips and information on spotting a child sex trafficker or on human trafficking in general, resources can be found at