Posted: Wednesday, June 11, 2014 4:00 am
In an unprecedented partnership, Gov. Rick Perry and Houston Mayor Annise Parker met with the FBI, United Against Human Trafficking, Clear Channel Outdoor, as well as other local, state and federal agencies to reveal a new statewide campaign combating human trafficking in Houston and Texas, Tuesday.
Starting this month, advertising space will be donated by the Outdoor Advertising Association of Texas (OAAT), including member companies Clear Channel Outdoor and Lamar Advertising, for public service ads.
Messages publicizing the National Human trafficking Resource Center, at 1-888-3737-888, or the Polaris Project’s text code “BeFree” (233733) will be displayed on Houston Yellow Cabs, Metro buses and in shopping malls. On-air announcements are also planned for Univision television, Univision radio, and Clear Channel owned radio stations in Texas.
Clear Channel Outdoor is planning to further promote awareness with 15.8 million total billboard impressions, and 1.5 million digital billboard impressions for four weeks of the partnership.
“It’s an issue that’s large enough and important enough to bring us all together, across the spectrum,” Perry said.
“When we come together as Texans and work on difficult tasks or problems, we solve those problems,” Parker said.
The FBI also released a list of the “Most Wanted Human Traffickers” in Texas, including Alfonso Diaz-Juarez (aka Poncho, aka El Greñas), Roger Galindo-Sepeda, and Maria Isabel Cruz.
Diaz-Juarez, 45, is a Mexican national and is wanted by federal authorities for sex trafficking offenses. FBI officials believe he may be residing in the Houston area or traveling between Texas and Mexico. Diaz-Juarez was indicted in October 2013 for running an international sex-trafficking ring. Investigators caution that he is one of the most violent individuals in the organization, and out of 13 other co-conspirators, he is the only remaining fugitive in the case.
Galindo-Sepeda, 40, and Cruz, 46, are both Honduran nationals. They are wanted for conspiracy to smuggle, transport and harbor illegal aliens. Investigators believe they might be living in the Dallas area, or traveling between Texas and Honduras.
Anyone with information as to their whereabouts is urged to call 1-800-CALL-FBI, or the Crime Stoppers tip-line at 713-222-TIPS (8477). Information leading to the arrest of these individuals could merit a reward of up to $10,000.
“The fact that slavery exists in America today is frustrating, frightening, and tragic, but the reason it exists today, is because it is big business,” Parker said.
Polaris Project CEO Bradley Myles said human trafficking is a $150 billion industry and growing. Although sex trafficking is a large part of the enterprise, labor trafficking is a component often forgotten, indicated Myles. “We must galvanize the eyes of the public,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Ted Poe noted that new legislation will discriminate further against traffickers and customers, making efforts to rescue victims easier.
Among total calls to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, Texas ranks second behind California. In Texas, 436 potential cases were reported during 2013 and of those, 144 were in Houston. There are anywhere from 600 to 900 runaway youths annually in Harris County, according to United Against Human Trafficking. One out of seven runaways reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) are likely to be sex trafficking victims, as attested by the NCMEC.