$4.4 million grant to combat sex trafficking

- City of Houston Mayor’s Crime Victims Office director Andy Kahan remembers conversations that he and Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg had in the 1990s years ago about needing more staff to help what they observed as a growing problem -- human trafficking.

Kahan applauded Ogg's persistence on Monday as she announced $4.4 million in grants from the State of Texas help combat human and sex trafficking.

"The bulk of this 4.4 million dollars will go to going after not just the sellers in the sex and human trafficking industry, but the buyers who provide the marketplace," said Ogg during a news conference on Monday."

Ogg also said the increase in human trafficking cases and limited staffing has created a backlog which has let some vulnerable victims fall through the cracks.

$3 million of the funding will be allocated toward doubling the staff at the victim witness division of the Harris County District Attorney's Office.

Approximately $1 million of the grant will be earmarked for victims services, counseling and support for prosecutors.

Another $400,000 will be used toward domestic violence cases and young victims are a big focus.

"I think it's easier for traffickers and those who would exploit our children, to manipulate more kids via social media than back in the day when they'd have to go to the mall or the bus stop," said Andrea Sparks, who serves as the director of Texas Governor Greg Abbott's Child Sex Trafficking Office.

A University of Texas study estimates that of the more than 313,000 victims of trafficking in Texas, 79,000 of them are children.

Sparks added that doctors, teachers and even clients in salons have called from locations in Houston to report suspected abuse. She believes it is because more people are learning to observe the warning signs.

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