LUBBOCK, TX -- The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is just one part of a larger group working to educate, and work to find sources, of sex trafficking in West Texas. The group is called the Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Task Force.
The task force first started as a Community Assessment Group and then evolved into a task force. This task force includes members of LPD, LSO, the Lubbock County Criminal District Attorneys Office, ICE, DEA, and Representative Frullo's office, among others.
"That was the original mission of the TABC, was to investigate organized crime," Captain Mark Menn with TABC said.
This change for them is a re-focusing, going from just dealing with licensing to also working to fight organized crime. That can include narcotic sales, money laundering, as well as sex trafficking.
TABC is a one part, working to find sources of organized crime within TABC licensed locations.
"We're a good resource for other law enforcement agencies when they need to find out if someone in a bar is engaging in organized crime, and then once a case is made against a person, then we can come in and cancel that permit, and take that source of illegal income out of the chain," Captain Menn said.
Another group involved is the Lubbock Rape Crisis Center, also called Voice of Hope. They describe this has three phases, community awareness, educating professionals on signs of sexual assault, and building a regional resource center. A regional resource center would provide victims a place to go to receive treatment, something they said West Texas currently does not have.
"The industry is so widespread that you have to hit it at every single angle, sex traffickers are very wise businessmen, and they're very savvy, and know how to hide, and so you have to hit it at every level, you can't just hit it at one level, and one agency cannot, there's no way one agency can address all of the issues, there's just so many issues," Leslie Timmons with Voice of Hope said.
They also provided KLBK with a list of District Court filing from September 1, 2012 to August 31, 2013 in regards to cases filed for trafficking of persons. In that time period, Lubbock County had 12 cases filed, while the state of Texas had a total of 49 cases filed. That means Lubbock County has about 25% of the filings during that period, something those with Voice of Hope said is about average annually.
Captain Menn said now, a lot of TABC's work, whether dealing with alcohol violations or looking for organized crime, has shifted undercover. "We're doing a lot more undercover and plainclothes work cause it's more effective in checking these violations, and it's also less disruptive to business, going undercover, there's no problems, everything's going the way it should, we leave, no body even knows we were there," Captain Menn said.
Voice of Hope has a list for anyone who wants to report a tip, connect with anti-trafficking services, or wants general or training information.