Did you know that blacked-out or barred windows and 24-hour massage parlors are "red flags" that human trafficking may be afoot? Nor did we.
If you want to heighten your human trafficking awareness, all you need to do is hop on a bus with the Houston Rescue & Restore Coalition. Not exactly the most romantic way to spend a weekday evening, but potentially a valuable one.
On September 22 the group will be hosting its second annual bus tour, pointing out various signs of labor or sex trafficking in the Houston area. To be clear, they won't be indicating human trafficking violators, just the signs to look for. You can leave the banners, torches and bats at home.
"Houston is a hub for human trafficking," said Steven Goff, the project director for HRRC. "We're hoping that if people are able to identify the red flags, they'll call the hotline and report them."
The hotline he's referencing is the 24/7 National Human Trafficking Resource Center (888-3737-888), which, according to Goff, receives the highest percentage of its calls from the state of Texas (nearly 13 percent). The hotline did accept our call, but refused to verify the information.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Human trafficking -- which is forcing an individual to complete a job, be it sex or labor, for some other person or group's gain -- has been called modern-day slavery. Depending on the source, human trafficking is either the second or third largest criminal industry, behind arms and drugs, or falling somewhere between the two.
Texas can thank its proximity to Mexico for its significant role in the human trafficking problem. As for Houston's role, according to reports, the I-10 corridor has served as a key route for trafficking, and the city's diversity and spread-out landscape makes the problem tougher to track.
Participants in the bus tour will gather at Vox Culture, a local art studio, and then depart for the nearly 45-minute tour. After the tour, the group will reconvene at the art studio, where a traveling art exhibit will be on display. There will also be a dramatic interpretation of trafficking, followed by time for open dialogue and questions.
The bus tour is $20 and is part of Human Trafficking Awareness Week, which is presented by HRRC and is officially proclaimed by Mayor Annise Parker.