AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is reminding Texans to be vigilant during National Human Trafficking Prevention Month in January.

According to a press release from DPS, public awareness is an important part of preventing and combating this crime. 

Human trafficking is defined as the use of force, fraud or coercion in any type of labor exploitation or commercial sex act. It also occurs when an individual under the age of 18 is involved in commercial sex, the DPS said.

“Human traffickers are a serious threat to the safety of our communities, and it is up to all of us to be aware to stop the cycle,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw in the press release. “By being alert and notifying law enforcement of something that doesn’t seem right, you can help someone from a situation in which they are unable to help themselves.”

DPS asks Texans to be observant of others around and take note of possible indicators of human trafficking.

  • The person appears to be under control of another person either physically (someone else controls the person’s possessions i.e., ID, money, phone) or psychologically (little to no eye contact, unable to speak for themselves or unable to make simple decisions without approval).
  • The person has little to no awareness of their surroundings including where they are or where they are headed.
  • The person has untreated illness or infection, visible injuries, appears malnourished or sleep deprived.
  • The person’s clothing is inappropriate for the weather or environment. The person is dressed in a manner that does not appear age appropriate or makes them appear older.
  • The person is being transported to and from work by their employer.
  • The person lives where they work or works excessively long or unusual hours.
  • The person’s workplace has security measures that are unusual or excessive for the type of business (i.e., boarded or opaque windows, excessive security cameras).

DPS noted the presence of an indicator does not confirm an occurrence of human trafficking.

However, the combination and context of indicators may indicate human trafficking pending law enforcement investigation and you are encouraged to report it.

If you see signs of human trafficking, call 911 immediately to report it. Be ready to give as many details as possible, the press release said.

You can also make a report on iWatchTexas or call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text “BeFree” to 233733.