Members of law enforcement ask for help tackling human trafficking

800,000 men, women, children trafficked across international borders each year

SAN ANTONIO – Federal, state and local law-enforcement officials describe human trafficking as modern day slavery. It's a persistent problem affecting hundreds of thousands of victims.

Although authorities are the ones who make the arrests when it comes to human trafficking, they're asking for help bringing perpetrators to justice.

"Normal citizens are our first line of defense as far as getting these trafficked victims some help. Just looking around your community, being aware of what's going on and maybe contacting the local authorities if you feel like something is not right," said Texas Department of Public Safety Sgt. Orlando Moreno.

January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month and law-enforcement members from several agencies pointed out which red flags should be reported.

"Signs of abuse, restriction of freedom of movement, an individual who has minimal personal possessions," said Shane Folden, special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations San Antonio.

An estimated 800,000 men, women and children are trafficked across international borders each year, according to a Trafficking in Persons Report by the U.S. Department of State in 2007.

Locally, the challenge is how quickly victims can be transported to and from other cities.

"We sit right in the cross hairs of (the) I-35 and I-10 corridor. North, south, east and west, the largest interstate in the nation," said HSI San Antonio Deputy Special Agent in Charge, Aristides "Harry" Jimenez.

Trafficking is exploitation based, meaning victims can be any age, race, gender or nationality. Victims are found in all sorts of labor industries.

"If you live in a city or a county that has massage parlors, or restaurants or has major sporting venues, major events ... guess what. You've got human trafficking occurring in your backyard," Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said.

Victims of human trafficking can be reported by calling the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement HSI tip line at 1-866-347-2423 or by making a report online at www.ice.gov/tips.