New Measures to Combat Human Trafficking in Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) – It started when she was a kid. Crystal Sepulveda was trafficked by a family member.

“This person was convicted and sent to federal prison for – he didn’t just traffick me, he trafficked other people from Mexico,” she said. .

As a minor, Sepulveda ended up in the Bexar County probation system and was sent to a facility for trafficked youth.

Now she helps others in Austin through the SAFE Alliance.

“It’s something that our team specifically deals with and manages on a daily basis,” she said.

She said reports of sex trafficking have increased statewide and locally.

Last month, a nationwide FBI sting uncovered two teenage victims in Austin.

“We’re discovering new trends of people using Amazon wishlists and gift cards to avoid being tracked,” Sepulveda said.

“It’s not always the stranger who comes in the middle of the night to grab your children. It’s someone they know someone, who is close,’ said Sepulveda, pictured, who was trafficked by a family member. (Photo courtesy of Crystal Sepulveda)

She said we are also seeing a partial increase in reporting as more people know how to spot the signs, but there is still a need for awareness.

That’s why his group supports a new Austin City Council resolution, which members passed unanimously on Thursday.

He orders City Manager Spencer Cronk to put educational materials in all city buildings and shelters, and encourages city vendors like the Salvation Army or Caritas, to post them as well and train their employees.

“A lot of these vendors who already do business with the city have this information, but we don’t display city-owned signage and buildings, or even bridge shelters or any type of shelter, especially linked to vulnerable populations for this, such as people experiencing homelessness,” explained Mackenzie Kelly, a member of the District 6 City Council.

Kelly spearheaded the resolution after meeting a sex trafficking survivor herself earlier this summer at a Travis County homeless encampment.

“She was so disassociated with what was going on. It broke my heart,” Kelly said. “And as soon as I found out about that, I thought, ‘Oh my God, she can’t be the only person going through this. “”

Kelly said the cost is still under review.

“The resolution doesn’t specifically call for funding, but there will be a cost associated with that, what it is, the city manager will have to tell us about that,” she said.

The SAFE Alliance is a place that offers public presentations as well as private training.

“It’s very important that we educate each other and understand how these things are happening in our city so that we can help more people access resources,” Sepulveda said.

She said anyone can contact the Alliance for an educational presentation or training.

These include knowing how to spot red flags and where people in a particular company or industry might be considered victims, so they can help more people like Sepulveda before it’s gone. too late.

“[It] it takes a lifetime to heal from things like that,” she said.

The SAFE Alliance also has a 24-hour helpline for anyone suspected of being trafficked, abused or just needs someone to talk to. You can call or text 512-267-7233.

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