With a majority of victims trafficked through airports, this life-saving training empowered more than 400 people to take action should they suspect human trafficking during the holiday travel season
HOUSTON— In an unprecedented partnership, Houston Airports united mayors, law enforcement, bipartisan members of U.S. Congress, faith leaders, advocacy groups and survivors of human trafficking to educate the public on the disturbing and violent crime happening across the Houston area.
The life-saving resources come on the heels of a recent arrest by the Houston office of the FBI. Last week, federal agents announced the arrest of a 31-year-old Houston man. He is now charged with using force, fraud and coercion against three females, including two minors so that they would perform commercial sex acts.
The FBI is also assisting Montgomery County authorities in the search for Kristen Galvan. The teen was last seen Jan. 1, 2020. Family and investigators fear Galvan is the victim of human sex trafficking. Her image is part of a ‘missing children’ campaign featured on digital billboards across the Houston area.
Federal statistics reflect that 70% of victims are trafficked through airports.
“This isn’t a crime exclusive to far off places or Hollywood movie plots,” said Saba Abashawl, Houston Airports Chief External Affairs Officer. “Our hearts and prayers are with Kristen Galvan and her family. Stories like Galvan’s are why Houston Airports is committed to doing everything it can to help end human trafficking.”
In October 2019, Houston Airports became the first airport system in the country to formally partner with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and its Blue Lightning Initiative. Through the initiative, Houston Airports has trained more than 20,000 badged airport employees on how to identify and safely report human trafficking. The training continues.
The commitment of Houston Airports to end human trafficking is why Houston Airports organized and hosted a panel discussion for the general public. The advice shared during the event empowered approximately 450 members of the community to identify human trafficking and take action, should they suspect a person's life should be in danger. Local survivors of human trafficking shared their stories and how they were targeted and groomed by criminals operating in communities across the Houston area.
Fundraising totaling $30k from public partners NOV, Schlumberger, Marathon Petroleum, Houston First, Port of Houston and the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership will be presented to three local human advocacy groups in January which is also Human Trafficking Awareness month.
The life-saving training comes ahead of the busy holiday travel season when criminals may attempt to traffick their victims within large crowds.
Information from the City of Houston Mayor's Office and the Harris County Sheriff's Office was shared ahead of the busy holiday travel season, when human trafficking victims and criminals may blend into crowds more easily.
In 2015, the Houston Mayor’s Office was the first city in the country to establish a full-time position within the Mayor’s cabinet to address human trafficking. The office has developed a comprehensive model for Houston that includes leveraging city departments, like Houston Airports.
Recognizing key indicators of human trafficking is the first step in identifying victims.
Click here for more information and resources for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
RELATED: Houston Signs Agreement with Federal Agencies to Combat and Eradicate Human Trafficking
RELATED: City of Houston Mayor's Office of Human Trafficking and Domestic Violence