Border security is getting much needed attention right now to ensure law enforcement has the tools they need to stop human and drug traffickers. But these problems don’t stop at the border and often victims of trafficking aren’t limited to those smuggled into this county. This month, we recognize January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Human trafficking is modern day slavery and reports of sexual assault and labor abuse crimes can be seen across Texas. We have a duty as Texans to be vigilant and help law enforcement to stop this terrible crime.
As the chair of the Texas Railroad Commission, I have prioritized modernizing your state’s oil and gas regulator to meet the demands of the public and keep up with the constant innovation occurring in the oil plays of Texas. Producers in Texas now lead the world in production efficiencies to deliver high-quality commodities to Texans and the world market. Along the way, we have asked more from industry in helping combat transnational criminal organizations or cartels that threaten our safety and economic wellbeing.
In 2015, the Texas Legislature rightly saw the need for law enforcement to target criminal activity in the oilfield by expanding resources at the Texas Department of Public Safety to investigate, categorize and prosecute cartel activity affecting the oil and gas industry. This past year, I worked with the Association of Energy Service Companies and the Governor’s Child Sex Trafficking Team to bring more training and awareness to oil and gas producers to help them spot the signs and report what they are seeing to law enforcement.
Victims of human trafficking are not limited to individuals smuggled from other countries. Traffickers target Texas kids and prey on vulnerabilities arising from truancy, homelessness, runaways, or addictions. In 2017, the University of Texas School of Social Work published an alarming academic study that said more than 300,000 Texans are the victims of human trafficking each year, with almost 79,000 minors being the victims of sex trafficking and nearly 234,000 adult victims of labor trafficking.1
Newly-elected Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen has also prioritized combating human trafficking and the legislature is responding with proposals to increase resources for law enforcement and judges to put traffickers in jail. In the Senate, Senator Jane Nelson has proposed legislation to better marshal the state’s resources to combat this crime with a Human Trafficking Prevention Coordinating Council at the Texas Attorney General’s office. Made up of various state agency heads, they are charged with “developing and implementing a five-year strategic plan for preventing human trafficking in this state.”
Raising awareness and educating yourself and others on the signs reduces the places these traffickers can hide their victims and may stop them from finding new victims. Learn more at the Texas Attorney General’s website at https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/initiatives/human-trafficking and the National Human Trafficking Hotline at https://humantraffickinghotline.org/ or call 1-888-373-7888 if you suspect human trafficking. If you believe a child is in immediate danger, call 911.
Christi Craddick was reelected statewide by the people of Texas in November 2018 to serve as Texas Railroad Commissioner. A native of Midland, Christi is an attorney specializing in oil and gas, water, tax issues, electric deregulation and environmental policy.