|IT Based Tactics
Huntsville is the largest city and the government seat of Walker County, TX, with over 42,000 residents. Huntsville is approximately 70 miles north of Houston in the East Texas Piney Woods on Interstate 45, which runs between Houston and Dallas. Due to the city’s location along I-45, it is a part of what is known as the Texas Triangle. The Texas Triangle is located in the heart of Texas, with the metro areas of Houston, Dallas–Fort Worth, and San Antonio acting as the Triangle’s vertices. The three destination cities are connected through Interstate 35, Interstate 45, and Interstate 10. These highways are popular routes for travel as individuals can easily move between the highly populated cities for either business or leisure. Huntsville’s close proximity to Houston and its position along Interstate 45, contributes to the significant amount of prostitution and sex trafficking activity within the county. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Among the more serious crimes associated with local commercial sex market in Huntsville and its surrounding areas is sex trafficking. For example, in 2011, five men were arrested on for sex trafficking of a minor. According to reports, the five men had sex trafficked a teenage girl who had run away from her home in the fall of 2010. Officials were able to locate and rescue the victim in addition to arresting the five offenders on charges of compelling prostitution of a minor, human trafficking, and aggravated sexual assault. In October of 2019, the Walker County Sheriff’s Department announced that 19 people were arrested for their part of a major drug and prostitution operation. Federal, state and local authorities were part of the investigation, and allege that there were two methamphetamine trafficking organizations distributing the drugs to Walker and surrounding counties, and a “large scale” prostitution ring that was operating in Huntsville, College Station, Liberty and Houston. Weapons seized were believed to have been connected to crimes in Walker County.
Consumer-level demand provides the revenue stream for prostitution and sex trafficking and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies in their strategy for prevention and response. To combat the array of problems stemming from commercial sex, local law enforcement agencies have conducted periodic reverse stings. For example, in 2014, the Huntsville Police Department conducted a reverse sting that resulted in the arrest of six male sex buyers on charges of solicitation of prostitution. Additionally, the prostitution operation led to the arrest of two individuals on charges of aggravated promotion of prostitution and promotion of prostitution, respectively. The offenders’ identities, photos, ages, locations, and charges were included in press releases. In 2019, 18 male sex buyers were arrested in an operation by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office – Organized Crime Unit. The Human Trafficking and Buyers of Illicit Sex Operation was a multi-agency operation consisting of federal, state, county, and local agencies. One of the arrested sex buyers was a resident of Huntsville, TX. The offenders’ identities, photos, ages, locations, and charges were included in report from local news sources.
Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:
- 5 indicted in ‘forced prostitution’ investigation (2011)
- Police arrest two for promoting prostitution (2014)
- Large scale narcotics investigation leads to 19 arrests (2015)
- Major meth ring shut down, 19 arrested (2015)
Buyer Arrests, Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure: