Experts weigh in on efforts against human trafficking at Houston symposium

Law enforcement officials spoke on human trafficking at Houston's Junior League on Oct. 8, 2019.

Law enforcement officials spoke on human trafficking at Houston's Junior League on Oct. 8, 2019.

At a symposium on human trafficking on Oct. 8, experts noted the success Houston has had in fighting the problem but also the huge challenge that remains.

“Sadly it does happen regularly, especially here in Houston,” said U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, who hosted the event at the Junior League of Houston. “That’s why we’re here today—to learn how we as individuals and as a community can help eliminate this horrific crime.”

Experts on human trafficking, including law enforcement representatives from multiple city, state and nation-wide agencies, spoke on how to identify, prevent and help the victims of trafficking.

Katherine Chon, director of the Office on Trafficking in Persons and senior advisor on human trafficking at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said there were more illicit massage parlors with victims of human trafficking than there were Starbucks storefronts in the U.S.

“As we enter into the next 20 years, we really want to focus more on prevention within forced labor, prevention within sex trafficking, and prevention needs to be implemented at the local level,” Chon said.

In a panel discussion with law enforcement officials, Sgt. John Wall with the Houston Police Department said combating trafficking will require a multi-disciplinary and collaborative approach between agencies.

“Last year, in 2018, we recovered almost 400 victims of human trafficking and we arrested 211 perpetrators in a one-year period, and that’s significantly more than we did last year because of all of our partners coming together,” Wall said. “There’s no way we could do this without collaboration between local, state and federal agencies.”

Jeanette Milazzo, a special agent with the FBI and supervisor of the Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Task Force in Houston, said Houston had a broad range of trafficking victims.

“There’s what we called domestic minor sex trafficking, which tends to be more local in scale but still just as problematic because those are the victims that are from your communities who could be your neighbor, your schoolmates, your granddaughters, your daughters, and they’re American citizens,” Milazzo said. “They just get involved with the wrong people, or they get manipulated by what is usually an older male, and they are forced into prostitution but not in the way you would think.”

Milazzo said the mental manipulation traffickers put their victims through can be stronger than the physical force people often associate with forced prostitution, and a lot of manipulation can begin online through messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp.

“Parents can be diligent about monitoring their kids while they’re online. … It’s very important to be aware of who your kids are talking to, what websites they visit, and don’t be afraid to ask questions but also don’t be punitive or judgmental,” Milazzo said. “You don’t want to make them feel like they’re doing something wrong when in actuality they’re being manipulated by someone who’s much older and very sophisticated.”


Firefighters, police officers, solid waste collectors and bus drivers in Houston have all been affected by coronavirus exposure. (Courtesy Pexel)
From solid waste collectors to firefighters, Houston’s public workers facing strain from coronavirus exposures

Houston’s core city services are being strained by coronavirus exposures, city leaders report.

The Texas Republican State Convention was set to be held July 16-18 at the George R. Brown Convention Center. (Courtesy Visit Houston)
Two new lawsuits aim to reverse GOP convention cancellation

The lawsuits come the day after the contract for hosting the event was terminated.

Effective July 9, hospitals in more than 100 counties across the state must now postpone elective surgeries unrelated to COVID-19. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
MAP: Governor expands restrictions on elective surgeries to more than 100 Texas counties

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott expanded the restrictions that initially required only hospitals in Bexar, Dallas, Harris, and Travis counties to postpone all non-medically necessary surgeries and procedures that are unrelated to COVID-19.

July sales tax revenue in Bellaire is down during COVID-19, while West University Place sales tax figures remain strong. (Courtesy Pexels)
Comptroller’s office: July sales tax revenue up in West University Place, down in Bellaire

July sales tax revenue figures released July 8 by the Office of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts shows that Bellaire’s sales tax revenue has slipped year over year, while West University Place's has seen an uptick.

All main lanes, both north and southbound, on I-610 West Loop at I-69 will be closed from 9 p.m. July 10 through 5 a.m. July 13. (Community Impact staff)
I-610 West Loop main lanes closed through weekend

All main lanes, both north and southbound, of the I-610 West Loop at the I-69 Southwest Freeway will be closed from 9 p.m. July 10 through 5 a.m. July 13.

In compliance with Gov. Greg Abbott's July 2 executive order, the University Interscholastic League is requiring the use of facial coverings when practical to do so for all summer activity participants, among other guidelines. (Graphic by Ronald Winters/Community Impact Newspaper)
UIL releases guidelines for conducting summer activities during COVID-19 pandemic

The University Interscholastic League released udpated guidelines for schools conducting summer activities such as sports training and marching band practices on July 8.

Craft Burger is one of 15 restaurants, catering companies and food trucks participating in this year's Black Restaurant Week. (Courtesy Craft Burger)
Houston's fifth annual Black Restaurant Week returns July 10-19

Participating patrons can play Black Restaurant Week Bingo and vote for their favorite participating eateries for a chance to win prizes such as restaurant gift cards, culinary treats and cash prizes.

The city of Houston confirmed only 204 new cases July 8, down from over 1,000 July 7, a discrepancy that officials attributed to a "computer system slowdown." (Community Impact Staff)
Harris County coronavirus count: 701 new cases confirmed as hospitalizations hold steady July 8

The city of Houston confirmed only 204 new cases July 8—down from over 1,000 July 7—a discrepancy that officials attributed to a "computer system slowdown."

Six-thousand delegates were expected to attend the State of Texas Republican Party convention July 16-18. (Courtesy Visit Houston)
Houston First Corp. cancels Texas GOP convention under guidance from Mayor Turner

The decision came one week before 6,000 delegates were expected to attend the event at the George R. Brown Convention Center

Census worker
2020 census: Bureau prepares nonresponse follow-up field operations

For individuals who have not responded to the 2020 census, one of about 500,000 census takers will visit the their household between Aug. 11-Oct. 31.

How It Works: Houston Police Department budget breakdown

Protests have put city budgets across the U.S. in the spotlight. Here's a breakdown of where HPD comes from and what it goes toward.