HOUSTON -

Some consider Houston to be the hub for human trafficking and those who are working to stop the exploitation say a deal the city recently made with several strip clubs is sending the wrong message.

It was a landmark settlement between the city of Houston and 16 strip clubs.

The city agreed to stop enforcing the "three-foot rule" between dancers and customers, and allow topless dancing in the clubs.

In exchange, the clubs would pay a combined $1 million annually to help the Houston Police Department fight human trafficking.

"My wife heard this and she said, 'I feel sick to my stomach. People feel unclean when they hear this deal,'" said Bob Sanborn, president/CEO of Children at Risk.  

Sanborn, along with others who work with victims of trafficking, did not mince words when it came to blasting the agreement.

"These sexually oriented businesses make money off the exploitation of women and of children and we don't see how this measure is going to prevent that," said Emily Waters, development director of Freedom Place.

The group said it should have been consulted before the deal was signed by the city and representatives of the 16 clubs.

The agreement ended years of expensive legal wrangling between the two sides, and on Wednesday, Mayor Annise Parker defended the agreement.

“This is not about the adult entertainment industry or how I feel about it or not, this about the settling of a 16 year lawsuit and actually getting something for that settlement,” said Mayor Parker.

Sanborn said the anti-trafficking groups want the City and law enforcement to commit to going after traffickers.

"We've just hit the tip of the ice berg in the fight against trafficking this is a big setback in the anti-trafficking movement, but we need to move forward," said Sanborn.

The group said it does not have the resources to sue the City to get a better deal. So they are focused on making sure law enforcement officials go after sex traffickers who are then prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.