Council targets human trafficking in Austin

Council targets human trafficking in Austin
DATE: 16/04/2024 - 27/04/2024
TIME: All Day

To combat human trafficking in Austin, City Council members have voted to explore new resources for aiding victims, educating and collaborating with the community, and supporting law enforcement activity.

What happened

Council member Mackenzie Kelly recently drafted a measure intended to bolster Austin’s work with human trafficking response. Kelly said she was inspired to take action after hearing the story of a teenager who’d been trafficked from out of state into the city, and given Austin’s rising prominence as an event destination and travel hub.

“I think it’s really an important thing, especially with Austin being as big of a festival city as we are,” Kelly told Community Impact. “I want to ensure that in a city of our size, being the 10th-largest city in the country, and also hosting as many festivals and large events as we do, that we do everything in our power to combat human trafficking.”

The wide-ranging resolution was unanimously approved April 4, and asks city leadership to take on several internal and community-wide actions centered around trafficking and related crimes, such as:
Partnering with local hotel operators to secure safe lodging for victims immediately after rescue
Developing public information campaigns and other trafficking resources with local school districts, community groups and transportation entities
Expanding law enforcement partnerships and programs at the local, state and federal levels, and partnering with other Central Texas governments on response
Creating training programs for the local hospitality industry to help staff response to potential trafficking activity
Publishing a new online “tool kit” featuring an anonymous hotline, information on resources and other materials
Establishing an annual civic trafficking awareness event
Kelly highlighted the expanded school district partnerships as a key component of the resolution. While the city doesn’t have any jurisdiction over local ISDs, she said it’d be important for Austin’s city management to provide educators, parents and students with additional resources where possible.

Updates on all of the council-directed actions will be coming later this spring and summer.

“While this resolution marks a significant stride forward, it is merely the inception of a longer path ahead,” Kelly said April 4. “We must now translate our words into tangible actions ensuring that our community is equipped with the necessary resources, support systems and education to detect, prevent and respond to incidences of human trafficking.”

The renewed focus on trafficking comes more than a year after council asked to ensure city vendors working with homelessness were trained on recognizing trafficking risks through a 2022 resolution also sponsored by Kelly. City leaders last took a formal look at city- and community-wide approaches in 2015.

Quote of note

“Together, we can courageously face the truth that human trafficking happens every day in our city. It happens here because there is a demand for it here,” said Brooke Axtell, The SAFE Alliance’s director of development and strategic partnerships. “As Austin continues to be one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S., the demand for trafficking continues to increase. This is a painful truth to face about a city that many of us love, but real love does not look away from harm.”

Something to note

According to the Austin Police Department, anyone who encounters instances of human trafficking should report it to 911.

Information about trafficking can also be reported through the National Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888, the APD’s Human Trafficking Unit at 512-974-4786 or the Capital Area Crime Stoppers anonymous tip line at 512-472-8477.

Some local organizations involved in trafficking response and recovery, each with their own resources and support services, include SAFE, the Center for Child Protection

More information on the website of Council targets human trafficking in Austin

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