This map shows every zip code in San Antonio where children are being sex trafficked

New campaign aims to show trafficking can happen no matter where you live, communities need to pay attention

SAN ANTONIO – It’s a map that may leave you feeling shocked and uncomfortable.

Experts say, unfortunately, that’s the wake-up call our community needs when it comes to child sex trafficking.

The map is speckled with little red hearts, hitting every corner of San Antonio.

Those hearts represent one or more child sex trafficking victims in that zip code.

This map shows every zip code in San Antonio where children are being sex trafficked. (Courtesy of Ransomed Life)

“These are the children we’ve served over the last three years that have been trafficked. Some of them have been sold for sex. Some of them have been exploited through pornography,” said April Molina with Ransomed Life.

Ransomed Life is an organization providing services to trafficking victims and spreads awareness through community presentations and campaigns.

“That they’re not just in the center of the city, that it extends pretty far out into the suburbs in every direction,” Molina said.

In a new campaign called No Child Sold, Ransomed Life is letting the public know this affects everyone, regardless of where you live.

Research shows the children most vulnerable to trafficking are runaways, experiencing homelessness, or have a drug addiction. Molina explained they typically need to feed themselves or feed a drug habit and fall into the wrong hands.

However, those are only some of the cases they see.

“Kids who are living in a good, loving home can also get into trouble,” she said.

The main reason is social media.

“Child predators are using online chat rooms and social media platforms to develop a so-called relationship with kids. They comment on a picture, ask questions in their DMs and start to get more personal. Tell me about your family. Then at a certain point, they convince a kid to send a nude picture, and all of a sudden, they now have control,” Molina said.

She said that’s typically where the manipulation begins.

“They up the ante. Send us a video, meet me at this hotel, or we’ll share this with your friends and your family,” she explained.

There are serious barriers to children reporting that they’re being trafficked. One barrier is a feeling of shame or being manipulated to believe they are the criminals breaking the law. Another is threats from the traffickers, who often threaten harm to the child or their family.

That’s why early intervention is key. For red flags, look for changes in kids:

  • Are they more exhausted, falling asleep in class?
  • Are they hungrier than usual?
  • Are they either dressing up more or looking more unkempt?
  • Do they have new expensive items like phones or purses?

If you suspect something, immediately begin a conversation. Tell the child you’re safe to talk to, and they won’t get in trouble.

Molina said setting up those conversations before anything goes wrong will make it more likely that the child will go to the adult as soon as something does happen.

“You’re laying the foundation. You want to build trust. You want to be their trusted adult. If something goes wrong, you want them to be able to come to you and tell you something has gone horribly wrong,” she said.

It’s also about informing children on how to protect themselves and prevent trafficking from happening in the first place.

“It’s really hard to keep phones and computers out of the hands of kids. It’s really about teaching them judgment and understanding. And so that’s one of the things that we teach in our presentations,” Molina said.

She said that’s the only way to free more victims of child sex trafficking in our city.

“If you think looking at the map is alarming, imagine all the kids that we don’t even know about,” Molina said.

Any school, church, youth organization, workplace, or government agency interested in a Ransomed Life presentation, call (210) 514-4384 or head to their website.


About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.

Before starting at KSAT in August 2011, Ken was a news photographer at KENS. Before that he was a news photographer at KVDA TV in San Antonio. Ken graduated from San Antonio College with an associate's degree in Radio, TV and Film. Ken has won a Sun Coast Emmy and four Lone Star Emmys. Ken has been in the TV industry since 1994.