A three-week long investigation in July called Operation Freedom resulted in 64 arrests on charges related to human trafficking—such as the promotion of prostitution and compelling prostitution—in the geographical boundaries of Precinct 3, including the city of Fulshear and portions of the Katy area, according to a press release.
Operation Freedom also rescued five adults and two juveniles from sex trafficking, according to the release.
“This marks the first time in Fort Bend County history that a constable's office has taken an active role in enforcing human trafficking laws,” Constable Wayne Thompson said at a July 16 press conference. “We have proven that even in our area, which is one of the fastest growing but also very affluent, that we can have these issues.”
The investigation primarily used social media to identify and contact victims and people attempting to purchase sex, said Fort Bend County District Attorney Brian Middleton at the conference.
He and Thompson were joined by members of the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance, which is a collection of about 20 federal, state and municipal law enforcement agencies and nonprofits dedicated to eradicating human trafficking.
“The only way to [eradicate human trafficking] is to have this kind of collaborative effort,” said Kevin Lilly, chairman and presiding officer of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
All agencies at the conference urged the community to help them end human trafficking in the Greater Houston area.
“It's really important that, along with law enforcement and the nonprofit agencies, that the community takes an active role in being involved, being aware [and] educated about what this looks like and how this happens, and reporting it and bringing it to the attention of those that need to know the information and can then do something about it to rescue these individuals,” said Jenna Rudoff, an assistant district attorney at the Fort Bend County’s district attorney’s office.
The agencies said parents should monitor their children’s social media use and text messages to ensure they are not being targeted for human trafficking.
“When we see changes in our students, in our children, in their friends, that [don't] seem to fit the normal pattern, we need to ask questions, and we need to involve all of the available agencies,” said Sherri Zack, an assistant U.S. attorney and a coordinator for Project Safe Childhood for the Southern District of Texas.