Mayor's Office Press Release

Human Trafficking Near Public Schools

April 12, 2018 -- Children at Risk has linked a long-standing problem – illicit massage establishments and their proximity to schools and school-aged children -- with recommendations for local and state policymakers. The city of Houston has taken this problem seriously and used a multi-pronged approach to address this issue. We first amended our massage establishment ordinance and trained the Houston Police Department's differential response team officers who then canvass all locations with outreach cards translated into multiple languages in case the women working there, under coercion or not, decide to seek help. The HPD Vice and DRT canvasses have resulted in a drop from 289 open and advertising locations to 220 open and advertising locations.

While the city engages in this and other initiatives to reduce the number of illicit massage establishments and sex and labor trafficking overall, one thing is lacking, and so the problem persists: There are no concerted efforts -- from those who can reach beyond those reachable by city regulations or policies -- to address a culture where it is acceptable for fathers to take their sons to these places to lose their virginity, to celebrate bachelor parties at these places at the expense of the women who are often not there voluntarily.

A consistent push from places of worship, constructive conversations at family dinner tables and community involvement would address the underlying forces that drive this market. We have to examine what contributes to the commercial sex industry– broken families and intimacy, a casual culture toward commercial sex, and the continuous submission to personal pleasure with virtually no regard for the toll on another human being.

It is also important to note that while the buyer reviews imply there is a willingness from the women providing the services, that several of the women are there as a result of force, fraud or coercion and are in fact victims of human trafficking.