AUSTIN -- Austin police are partnering with local non-profits to fight an expected rise in human trafficking during Formula 1 weekend. It’s a crime that grows anytime Austin has an influx of visitors.
Restore a Voice is among a network of groups working together to solve the issue and provide help to the people who are rescued from slavery during F1 weekend.
“They will come to our clubs, and they will enjoy our downtown district as they should. There will be a lot of partying going on, but they want more than that. There are many people who come for the seedy side of the sporting event,” said founder of Restore a Voice Larry Megason.
Restore a Voice is establishing shelters for the people APD rescues during race week, and plans to offer them food, medical, care and counseling.
“And provide a home for them where they can experience the freedom and dignity,” said Megason.
The Austin Police Department is unsure how many trafficking victims they will rescue during F1, but the department is preparing for a busy week.
“It could be one victim. It could be 200,” said APD Victim Services Supervisor Dolores Laparte-Litton.
Human trafficking is also known as modern day slavery, underage prostitution and sexual exploitation. Four out of five victims are U.S. citizens. Up to 300,000 girls between 11 and 17 are lured into the sex industry every single year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
“Traffickers regularly beat them into submission, and generally there is a process of breaking down an individual's will,” said advocate John Nehme.
Nehme is creating a documentary called, “Trade in Hope” that shares the story of women who were trapped in slavery and how volunteers are helping them overcome their past.
Sex trafficking was a huge problem at the Super Bowl in Dallas in 2011. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott called it the single largest human trafficking event in the United States.