The vast majority of child sex trafficking victims in Texas are U.S. citizens, contrary to the general belief that they tend to be foreign.
SAN ANTONIO — Employees at the San Antonio International Airport are better informed about the risks and realities of human trafficking following a presentation hosted by the non-profit Ransomed Life.
“We know that airports are often times a hub for trafficking because of the way that traffickers operate because of the way that they travel so we felt like being able to be in front of the airport employees here was critical,” said April Molina, director of communications for Ransomed Life.
The organization launched its No Child Sold awareness campaign last month in an effort to educate the San Antonio community on the dark realities of child sex trafficking.
Data from UT Austin reports an estimated 313,000 human trafficking victims and 79,000 young adult and minor sex trafficking victims across Texas. A vast majority of the 79,000 sex trafficking victims are U.S citizens.
Ransomed Life works with at least 90 juvenile sex trafficking victims annually, providing a host of services to help heal those who’ve survived sexual exploitation.
The training included a list of slides detailing techniques for airport employees and the general public to identify trafficking victims.
“If you have a teenager who’s not carrying their own identification or isn’t able to speak on behalf of themselves, they’re with an adult who’s doing all the talking for them, that could be a red flag,” Molina said.
It’s become a lot easier in the past decade for perpetrators to target their young victims since smart phones are commonplace in society.
But it’s also created challenges for law enforcement, which is always learning about new apps utilized by predators to communicate with youth.
The expansive world of online gaming has been used as a medium for would-be criminals to communicate and groom juveniles.
Bexar County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeffrey Allovio served more than 35 years as an FBI agent. He’s currently a member of the FBI San Antonio Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force.
Allovio described a 2016 sting operation in which involved a San Antonio man who expressed desires to have sexual relations with a young girl. Information about this particular man’s activities were discovered through a contact in California revolving around child pornography.
Undercover FBI agents communicated with the man under the guise of businessmen to gauge his intentions and desires.
The man began communicating with a 14-year-old girl, who was actually a member of the FBI, detailing his plan to have sex with the fictitious girl in the Bahamas on his birthday.
Allovio and fellow agents pretended to be pilots of a private jet, eventually meeting with the man at the airport, although the plane never left the tarmac.
Instead, the man’s intentions to meet with the teenager for sex were proven and as a result, he was arrested charged with multiple offenses including receipt of child pornography and enticement of a minor. The man is currently serving 10 years in prison for his actions.
“It is very rewarding to end up catching these individuals who are trying to harm our children,” Allovio said.
City of San Antonio Airport Security Manager Chris Cole acknowledged the occurrence of human trafficking at the facility. Data on the frequency of such activity taking place at the airport could not be immediately provided.
But Cole emphasized it’s vital for everyone to become informed about human trafficking and report suspicious behavior, whether it’s at an airport, downtown San Antonio, or anywhere else in the world.
“The most people we can educate about this important topic of human trafficking and the awareness and the training and what signs to be looking for I think that will help us improve the security of the airport,” Cole said.