HOUSTON – Houston ranks No. 1 among U.S. cities thought to have the most victims of human trafficking. The rank comes from new numbers released on the total calls made to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center tip line. The crime is so underreported that FBI agents say calls to a national tip line indicate the size and location of the problem.
Among states, Texas ranks second. Only California had more calls in 2013, according to the FBI.
The FBI, along with local and state law enforcement agencies and many elected officials kicked off a new campaign against human trafficking Tuesday morning at a press conference at Houston's City Hall.
"The fact that slavery exists in America today is embarrassing. It's frustrating, frightening and tragic," Mayor Annise Parker, D-Houston, said.
New billboards and public service campaigns will be used to raise awareness about human trafficking. Some of the public service ads will appear in Houston-area Yellow Cabs, Metro buses and shopping malls. They will also appear on Spanish-language TV and radio.
"This modern-day slave trade is an affront to modern human decency. It is the product of the worst among us," Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, said.
Last year, 144 trafficking cases were reported in Houston. A total of 436 came from Texas, the FBI tells Local 2 Investigates.
Anyone with information on human trafficking can call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888.
The FBI also unveiled a list of Texas' Most Wanted Human Traffickers. A reward up to $10,000 is being offered for information leading to their arrest.
Alfonso Diaz-Juarez, aka Poncho, aka El Greas, a 45-year-old Mexican national, is wanted for alleged sex-trafficking violations. Investigators believe Diaz-Juarez may be in the Houston area, or traveling between Texas and Mexico.
FBI agents say Diaz-Juarez is a pimp who locked women and girls in rooms in Houston and also forced them to have sex.
Roger Galindo-Sepeda, a 40-year-old Honduran national, and Maria Isabel Cruz, a 46-year-old Honduran national, are wanted for allegedly promising at least 30 women and girls they would have a better life in Texas. Prosecutors say they then forced the women and girls into the sex trade.
Investigators believe they may be in the Dallas area, or traveling between Texas and Honduras.
If you have information about these fugitives call 1-800-CALL-FBI, or the Crime Stoppers tip-line at 713-222-TIPS (8477).