Local Law Enforcement, Advocates Collaborate in Efforts to Help Victims of Human Trafficking

Local Law Enforcement, Advocates Collaborate in Efforts to Help Victims of Human Trafficking

By Alicia Neaves

NewsWest 9

MIDLAND/ODESSA - There are 800,000 victims of sex trafficking a year, making it the fastest growing business of organized crime worldwide.

"I wanted to know first-hand what our local folks are seeing and I got a real eye-opener," said Congressman Mike Conaway of the 11th District of Texas.

Tuesday morning, Congressman Mike Conaway met with local law enforcement and advocates to brainstorm to find the tools needed to be ready to help human trafficking victims.

"If it's only one young woman, one woman, it's too many. So, what I saw this morning was a great heart for the victims but a frustration at not having the trained therapists and others available to be able to intervene on behalf of the victim to get them out of the circumstances," Conaway said.

This collective initiative comes just after the House of Representatives passed 12 bills aimed at diminishing this deadly crime. The bills will provide services and support to victims and supply additional resources to law enforcement.

"I think the surprising thing is that human trafficking is happening locally," Karen Hildebrand, Executive Director of The Crisis Center of Odessa, said.

Hildebrand says the exact numbers of human trafficking victims locally aren't easy to track. That's because many victims mask the reality with sexual assault, for example.

Others don't come forward.

"We've had three young women in our shelter that were in that situation and they were all underage and we had to involve the FBI and find help for them," Hildebrand said.

Young women are most impacted by this deadly crime.

"A lot of times it's runaways that get pulled into this because they're vulnerable," Hildebrand said.

Advocates encourage communication between young women and their parents and urge anyone who is lured into this organized crime to come forward because the help is there.

For more information on The Crisis Center, visit

or call their hotline at 866-627-4747.