Majority of sex trafficking crimes start online, ChildSafe advocate says

Most victims are lured in by someone they think they know on social media.

SAN ANTONIO – The Texas teen that disappeared after going to the bathroom at an NBA game in Dallas and was later found in an Oklahoma hotel is drawing attention to how children are being lured into sex trafficking.

Helen Browning, care coordinator for ChildSafe in Bexar County, isn’t connected to the teen’s case, but she has handled many cases involving victims in our community.

“We don’t usually see stranger abductions as a way into trafficking. Here in the United States, it’s very, very rare,” Browning said.

She said it happens in less than 1% of cases.

These days, most victims are lured in by someone they think they know on social media.

“It’s really important that parents are watching what their youth are doing online because 90% of the trafficking -- what we have in sex trafficking --is starting online nowadays,” Browning said.

She said it’s important that families talk openly about the dangers lurking on social media and in person. Use family code words, especially for young children, to keep them safe. And be vocal and loud if your child disappears to get as many people helping to look as possible.

A Texas law that took effect in January requires hotels to train staff on how to look for signs of trafficking. Michelle Madson with the San Antonio Hotel & Lodging Association said it’s an important step that helps protect lives.

“We know this is an unfortunate thing that happens in our hotels, and we don’t want to turn a blind eye to it. We want to be part of the solution,” Madson said.

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About the Authors:

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.

Adam Barraza is a photojournalist at KSAT 12 and an El Paso native. He interned at KVIA, the local ABC affiliate, while still in high school. He then moved to San Antonio and, after earning a degree from San Antonio College and the University of the Incarnate Word, started working in news. He’s also a diehard Dodgers fan and an avid sneakerhead.