EDINBURG, Texas (ValleyCentral) — According to the U. S. State Department, there are nearly 25 million human trafficking victims worldwide. Here in the Valley leaders are trying to combat this growing problem.
“Human trafficking is a global problem we have down here,” said Juan Cano, the Chairman of the Rio Grande Valley Anti-Human Trafficking Taskforce.
The task force works with local agencies across the Rio Grande Valley to help trafficking victims. It also helps with investigating cases as well as working with law enforcement to prosecute those involved.
The RGV Anti-Human Trafficking Taskforce is now teaming up with the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s office to proclaim January National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
“We do this to bring awareness for victims of human trafficking because these victims are not self-identifiers,” Cano said. “So it is hard to combat this.”
According to the RGV Taskforce, about 40% of human tracking are U.S citizens. Most of these victims are young runaways or foster children, and there are red flags for people to catch.
“When you see a teenager or minor that all of a sudden has money or they have expensive, or they are constantly running from home, a lot of kids are running away from home,” said Rosie Martinez, Founder of the RGV Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force. ” A lot of kids or runaways tend to be exploited by adults and that’s another form of human trafficking.”
Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez told ValleyCentral local law enforcement across the county are joining the initiative. Rodriguez adds there are plans to improve the mission.
“We’ve been doing this for the last 6 years in strengthening our agencies,” Rodriguez said. ” Strengthening our knowledge, strengthening our expertise and be able to protect our communities from human trafficking and other things that harm our community.”
“If you see something say something because by you doing that you can change the life of that person and the life that are around them,” Cano said.
If you know someone who may be a victim of human trafficking you can reach out to the Hidalgo County DA’s office at 956-292-7600 or you can contact any Police Department in the Valley.