NTZ is Fighting Trafficking through new collaborative with St. Thomas University, other innovative solutions
HOUSTON - You may have heard about the teenager who was taken from a Dallas Mavericks game and sold into sex trafficking. Well, a Houston woman was consulted regarding that case.
PREVIOUS: Man who lured 15-year-old girl away from Dallas Mavericks game arrested
President of Houston nonprofit "No Trafficking Zone" Jacquelyn Aluotto led a collective effort turning NRG Park into what’s called a "No Trafficking Zone" to try to keep what happened at the Mavericks game from happening here.
Fortunately, that 15-year-old is back home with her parents but Aluotto is still fighting human trafficking, most recently with a partnership at the University of St. Thomas.
"Human trafficking is a $150-billion business," Aluotto explains. "It makes more money than Nike and oil combined."
In fact, she says traffickers earn $700,000 a year per child and according to Aluotto, the penalty for pushing drugs is higher than the punishment for selling people.
Four people have been arrested after that 15-year-old girl went to a Mavs game with her family and detectives say Emanuel Cartagena took the teen from the arena, sexually assaulted her, and she was found 10 days later being trafficked for sex in Oklahoma.
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Aluotto says she’s grateful for the No Trafficking Zone initiative at NRG Park. "If someone were to go missing and if someone were to be trafficked from the stadium we know how to respond right away. We have an actual flow chart to follow," explains Aluotto.
At the University of St. Thomas, students are teaming with the "No Trafficking Zone," learning how high school and college campuses are a hunting ground for predators.
"You think human trafficking, it’s that Liam Neeson, somebody with an Eastern European accent taking your daughter in the middle of the night and smuggling her halfway around the world," says Dr. Cesare Wright a University of St. Thomas Professor.
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Student Rebecca Alcozar adds, "but it also is a child that doesn’t even have to leave their bedroom in order to be trafficked. We learned that just like every other industry technology is facilitating the evolution of human trafficking."
The students are starting an anti-human trafficking podcast called Unmuted.
Courtney Litvak, 24, says she was recruited right from her Houston area high school by classmates pretending to be her friend.
"I had my first pimp/trafficker at 17 years old as a junior in high school," she explained. "I was targeted at my school campus but ended up being trafficked across the country during my senior year of high school."
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"I had multiple, multiple events where I was facing life and death and I did not think I was going to survive," she continued. "I had experienced really brutal beatings. I can tell you how real and how good God is because it was a miracle that empowered me to have the strength, with a concussion and with so many physical and internal injuries, to be able to run for my life."
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez was also there showing his support to the University of St. Thomas' students and the "No Trafficking Zone" initiative.
"We stand in unity to say that here in Houston/Harris County, Texas this is unacceptable," he said. "This will not stand. We’re going to work collaboratively to put an end to this."
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Aluotto is also headed to Washington D.C. Tuesday night to testify before congress, the senate, and the Department of Justice in hopes of getting federal legislation passed to help stop sex trafficking in schools.
To report suspected human trafficking to Federal law enforcement: 1-866-347-2423. To get help from the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733)