EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – January 11th marks Human Trafficking Awareness Day and FBI of El Paso is warning of rising cases in the Borderland.
Aida Reyes, supervisor of Human Trafficking and Crimes Against Children unit says in 2020 the department had around 700 cases of human trafficking and by the end of 2021 that number rose to over 1,700.
She explained most of the cases are related to sex trafficking and some regarding labor trafficking.
Individuals are usually made to work for free or engage in commercial sexual acts against their will, Reyes said.
The traffickers take the individual’s documents, such as ID or passport so they cannot return to where they came from or often blackmail them.
Reyes said victims in El Paso are both U.S. citizens, but also come from across the border.
“It can be anybody really. A lot of people are under the impression that it’s folks that are illegally in the country, we do have some of that, but the majority of the people that are involved in this type of human trafficking are U.S. citizens,” explained Reyes.
Human trafficking victims often fall prey and are put to work in the hospitality industry in places like hotels, night clubs or massage parlors.
Some warning signs to look out for, said Reyes, is if a person is afraid to leave a place or asks for permission.
If someone cannot access their documents, it can also be seen as a warning sign.
She advised to call 911 if you suspect human trafficking or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1888-373-7888.