By Sylvia Gonzalez
PERMIAN BASIN - Homeland security says the population growth in West Texas is fueling the problem of both human and sex trafficking. NewsWest 9 spoke with agents about how serious the problem is in the Basin and who are the main targets.
"Both adults and children can become victims of human trafficking. I would say a larger percentage are adults because labor trafficking is more prevalent than sex trafficking," Resident Agent, Jerry Garnett, with Homeland Security Investigations in Midland, said.
Garnett says with the Basin attracting so much business, people from all over the U.S. are flocking to West Texas. He says he is not surprised by the recent human trafficking cases in the Basin.
"The Permian Basin is pretty much growing right now, our economy is growing very quickly and expanding. Because of that, there's a large population that's moving in from around the country," Garnett said.
Garnett says in most cases adults would be used for labor trafficking, in other words, more use for cheap labor, while children would be used for a much more serious crime.
"Children would be more likely involved in the human sex trafficking. Children would be forced into prostitution, that type of thing, they could be homeless or runaways," Garnett said.
According to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, it's estimated that 100,000 children are at risk of being commercially sexually exploited. The average age of recruitment for domestic sex trafficking in the United States is between 12 and 14 years of age.
"The issue of commercial sexual exploitation is very common. It's common across the State of Texas and it's common across the United States. This problem is happening right in your own neighborhood and the commercial sex industry victimizes boys and girls and it's occurring across Texas and it's even occurring in the Midland and Odessa area," David Boatright, Executive Director for The Center of Missing and Exploited Children in Texas, said.
Boatright says most human and sex trafficking is fueled in part by technology.