by Morgan Montalvo
As human and sex trafficking attracts more media attention, San Antonians want to know more about how to identify the crime - and how to prevent it, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
During last evening's human and sex trafficking forum organized by the World Affairs Council of San Antonio and hosted at the Blue Star, police and child expolitation experts offered their insights on the problem.
Nancy Rodill with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says in an average year, about 460,000 children are reported missing in the United States, providing criminals with a ready source of victims.
"What our statistics show is that 88 percent of the numbers that we see are runaways, and one in seven of the runaways are potential human trafficking victims," Rodill says,
She says while the vast majority of children listed as runaways have been remanded for care by state child welfare agencies, kids who flee from affluent homes can also find themselves expolited after leaving home.
Lt Bill Grayson with the San Antonio Police Department's Special Victims Unit says geography plays a large role in the amount of human an sex trafficking that goes on in a community and, with San Antonio situated astride several major interstate highways, the Alamo City is seeing its share of trafficking-related crime.
"The highway systems are quite active as far as human trafficking," Grayson says. "North, south east, west, border to border, on I-35 or I-10."
"We're a large geographical area, so we're going to have a lot of trafficking," Grayson says.
Grayson says human and sex trafficking is not necessarily a mobilitiy-dependent crime. Even as child pimped locally for sex or as a drug courier by a fellow student, a romantic interest or a relative qualifies as a trafficking-related offense.
Rodill says abductions, "grooming," and the online luring of children from homes, shelters or schools are also ways criminals secure victims."
Child sex trafficking doesn't have just one image," says Rodill. "This can happen to anyone, and technology has allowed it to be something that really can reach anyone. It does not matter your socioeconomic status."