LIBERTY COUNTY, Texas – The Liberty County Sheriff's Office is investigating the use of stolen trucks in human trafficking and smuggling activity.
Investigators said there has been a spike in truck thefts since December 2018 and seven of the most recent trucks that were recovered seemed to be altered for transporting people.
Why do they think that?
The windows were blacked out, the back seats and rear paneling were removed and investigators found clothing and food in at least one of the seven trucks.
"Probably somewhere between eight to 10 people could be packed into the back of these pickup trucks," said Capt. Ken DeFoor, with the Liberty County Sheriffs Office.
DeFoor said the trucks were found abandoned in north Liberty County on June 10.
Along with the evidence of human trafficking, investigators found three stolen guns.
"I wouldn't say that this has been an ongoing thing for any long number of years, but recently, within the last year or so, we've seen an increase in the theft of trucks and we've seen indications of organized crime by the use of these vehicles," DeFoor said.
Human trafficking and smuggling
Timeka Walker, the executive director of United Against Human Trafficking, is familiar with the topics of human trafficking and smuggling activity, but she was quick to point out that there is a difference between the two.
"When you're talking about smuggling, it has to be a crime against the border. When you're talking about human trafficking, it's a crime against a human being. Someone is actually being exploited," Walker said.
The nonprofit is based out of Houston, but Walker said human trafficking is a problem across the country, and that it happens every day.
"People are in situations where they are being harmed, where issues are happening in their lives and they're being taken advantage of," Walker said.
Anyone with information about this case, or human trafficking in Liberty County, is asked to call the Multi-County Crime Stoppers at 800-392-STOP (7867).
If you are in need of resources or someone to talk to about human trafficking, you can visit the United Against Human Trafficking website here.