AUSTIN, Texas — On Thursday, the Austin City Council unanimously passed a resolution aiming to help combat sex trafficking in the Austin area.
The resolution was authored by Council Member Mackenzie Kelly, District 6. It directs the city manager to provide certain resources related to human trafficking to vendors who conduct business with the City of Austin and encourages them to ensure that those vendors have the means to identify individuals experiencing homelessness at risk of human trafficking.
"I authored this resolution after an experience on a ride-out with a sergeant where we went into an encampment, and I met a woman who was in distress. I spoke with the sergeant about her situation, and he let me know that she was being sex trafficked in the camp," said Kelly. "At that point, it broke my heart because it occurred to me that she couldn't be the only person experiencing homelessness in this type of situation. Our City needs to do more to help these people get lifted out of their situation."
Thursday's resolution adds to a former action from the city council in 2015, which declared that freedom from human trafficking was a fundamental human right.
"This resolution declares that Austin City Council supports the fight to end human trafficking and condemns the ongoing exploitation and profit from human trafficking and encourages the Texas legislature and broader community to support enabling legislation to end human trafficking, amending the City's State and Federal Legislative Agendas to support legislation to end human trafficking," Kelly's office said in a press release.
City Council Member Ann Kitchen, District 5, also chimed in Thursday's news.
"I am pleased that we are building on the work of previous council actions to bring awareness and education to victims of human trafficking and taking steps to end this egregious violation of human rights," she said.
Kelly's office cited research from the University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work, which found that there are an estimated 313,000 victims of human trafficking across the state, approximately 79,000 minors and youths are victims of sex trafficking, and there are around 234,000 workers in Texas who are victims of labor trafficking.
“One in four runaway children encounter a trafficker within 48 hours," added Council Member Leslie Pool, District 7. "This resolution gives the City an opportunity to spread awareness at places where traffickers prey, from certain industries to the unsheltered population. I encourage our vendors and non-profit partners to take very seriously the materials and education we will create through this resolution and am glad this resolution calls for partnering with the Chamber of Commerce so that the Chamber can encourage local business participation as well. Human trafficking shatters lives often beyond repair, and everyone on the front lines of potential intervention is in a position to save innocent people."
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