SAN ANTONIO – Human trafficking is morphing in the face of COVID-19 and the trends are alarming advocates and experts in Bexar County.
Roy Maas Youth Alternatives Outreach Director Chuck Paul said the ability for traffickers to sell a person, for sexual actions or other means, was diminished following the COVID-19 outbreak and traffickers began ditching people they had trafficked onto the street.
“Prior to the pandemic, traffickers had what they call their stable of young people that they exploit,” Paul said. “After the pandemic hit and everything started to shut down, the ability for a trafficker to sell a person was greatly diminished because this person wasn’t making them money, they just got rid of them,” Paul said. “They dropped them off on the streets and said ‘you’re on your own.‘”
Paul said teens and young adults flooded the Centro Seguro RMYA drop-in Center and the LA Puerta Shelter for Trafficking Victims. Paul said he drives around town each week keeping in touch with at-risk youth.
“We reach out to them and let them know we’re here and we care about them,” Paul said. “We invite them to come into Centro Seguro where we’re able to give them a meal, a hot shower, a change of clothes, we stock them up with as much food as they could possibly carry, and engage them with our counseling center.”
According to Paul, once the state’s restrictions were lifted, traffickers started looking to “re-supply their stock of slaves,” so, time is of the essence.
“The traffickers have to re-supply their stock of slaves,” Paul said. “I’m calling it what it is. There’s a huge population of young people right now that are stuck at home, they haven’t been going to school. Their only social contact is social media and the traffickers are working hard on social media to target whichever child they can.”
Paul said traffickers look for in places where parents may not expect, like social media and online gaming platforms. Traffickers are combing the streets for runaways, homeless or foster youth, first offering them food, shelter and protection, then eventually making them have sex as payment, Paul said.
Paul said he tells parents they need to be aware of who their child is talking to on social media or multi-player video games and made aware of any person using a secret identity who is attempting to groom their child with gifts or attention on websites and web-based applications.
To read the full story by Courtney Friedman on KSAT: Click HereTags: COVID, San Antonio, Texas