ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Already this year, five men have been arrested in the Big Country with ties to human trafficking. It’s an unsettling thought that one McMurry professor said more Big Country residents should be made aware of, so we can be a part of the solution in detecting and preventing more human trafficking cases.

Three different kinds of human trafficking have occurred in the Big Country over the last few months – sex, labor and immigration trafficking. It’s sadly not an uncommon occurrence here or across the United States.

In an email exchange with the Regional Victim Crisis Center Executive Director Janey Wawerna, in Abilene (2020-2021), RVCC served 21, and in 2021-2022 RVCC has served a cumulative total of 78 crime victims that have been trafficked or are at very high risk of being trafficked.

Across the nation and the globe, Assistant Professor of Sociology at McMurry University, Dr. David Wahl said human trafficking creates a $150 billion global business, while $99 billion goes to sex trafficking alone.

Unfortunately, Dr. Wahl said only 5% of human trafficking cases are reported nationally, leaving that other 95% potentially victimized.

But arguably the most bone chilling piece of information he told KTAB/KRBC is regarding the two select groups traffickers target.

“The two groups that are kind of cherished by traffickers are LGBTQIA+ individuals but also pregnant woman,” Dr. David Wahl said. “And the reason for the pregnant women is because traffickers see that as a 2 for one, because when she gives birth now they have another traffic victim.”

A sickening thought, however, Dr. Wahl said it gets worse. He said in his nine years of extensive research into the topic of human trafficking, he’s found that anyone between the ages of three months to 72-years-old are potential traffic victims.

In her email, Wawerna said, “the youth population of runaway and/or street youth are very vulnerable.  The national statistics estimate that within the first 48 hours a runaway youth will be approached by human trafficker.”

Luckily, in the Big Country, there are several outlets available to those seeking help or know someone who could seek out help.

The Regional Victim Crisis Center has a 24/7 Victim Crisis Hotline – (325) 677-7895.

The Noah Project also has several resources listed on their website, which you can find here.

Dr. Wahl encourages everyone that if you see something, say something. The RVCC lists the following on their website as potential red flags:

The National Human Trafficking Resource Center also has a 24/7, fully confidential number – (888) 3737-888 or text “Help” to BeFree (233733).