The Vice Division is a functional component of the Special Investigations Command that is charged with the suppression of prostitution, illegal gambling, human trafficking, sexually oriented business enforcement, and Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) code violations. Additionally, the division responds to citizen complaints regarding vice‐related activities and supports other departmental personnel and outside agencies in related investigations.
The suppression of illegal vice‐related activity is accomplished through proactive investigations using intelligence, surveillance, confidential informants, and undercover operations. Units within the division investigate illegal gambling, including bookmakers; illegal casinos and card games; gambling devices in bars, entertainment areas, and carnivals. The division investigates escort services, massage parlors, modeling studios, and topless clubs suspected as being fronts for prostitution, and Vice works with the City Legal Department to seek civil injunctions and judgments against these establishments.
General Vice squads investigate illegal gambling, to include bookmakers, the use of gambling devices in local bars, areas of entertainment, businesses, and illegal casinos, illegal card games, and carnivals. In addition to gambling enforcement, these units investigate escort services, massage parlors, modeling studios, and topless clubs suspected as being fronts for prostitution and work with City Legal to craft civil injunctions and judgments against said establishments. They are also responsible for conducting street prostitution stings in conjunction with the appropriate divisional tactical units. These units investigate all forms of pornography in the city. These units are also responsible for enforcing and investigating the city’s Sexually Oriented Business (SOB) ordinance. This ordinance controls the placement of various businesses in the city that require SOB permits. These units also conduct long term major investigations using vice law violations as a basis for their investigations, these squads work closely with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office (HCDAO) to complete Organized Crime and/or Money Laundering investigations centering on seizing illegal gained assets. Night shift General Vice also consists of a Club Squad that has the primary responsibility of investigating all complainants and reports involving any local night club that might be suspected of violating TABC laws and/or City Sexually Oriented Business (SOB) ordinances. Finally, the enforcement of TABC laws is also the responsibility of these squads.
Human Trafficking Unit (HTU)
This unit is responsible for investigating and combating all aspects of Human Trafficking in and around Houston, whether in the sex industry, or forced labor, including both domestic and international trafficking. The HTU will work closely with the federal task forces on human trafficking as well as the City and County Legal Departments, Harris County District Attorney’s Office and other local law enforcement agencies.
Chapter 125 of the Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code and Section 101.70 of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code are considered the "Texas Nuisance Abatement Statutes." These statutes permit law enforcement agencies to close any piece of property involved in illegal activities, including organized crime, prostitution, and sexual assault, as well as violations of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code.
Vice Division, along with Differential Response Team Units and the city and county attorney’s offices, may work with the property owners in an attempt to first gain voluntary compliance with properties that have been deemed a “nuisance.” If voluntary compliance is not met, Chapter 125 may be used to remedy the nuisance. Once a property and/or location is determined to be a “common nuisance” under the law, and after successful suit, it is closed for a period of one year, unless a penal bond is posted. The nuisance laws can have a positive effect on locations that law enforcement agencies have spent numerous man-hours policing. The nuisance abatement process supplements traditional policing by providing an addition tool to remedy illegal activity at specific properties and/or locations within the city of Houston.
What kind of illegal activity can be addressed by through nuisance abatement laws?
- aggravated assault
- sexual assault
- organized criminal activity
- delivery, possession, manufacture or use of a controlled substance
- discharge of a firearm
- unlawfully carrying a weapon
- trafficking persons
What type of property can be closed?
- businesses of all kinds
- private residences
- convenience stores
- any type of property
1200 Travis, 4th Floor
Houston, Texas 77002 Phone – 713-308-8600
- Indicators of Human Trafficking
- HPD Human Trafficking Handout
- National Human Trafficking Resource Center Website
- Introduction To Human Trafficking: A Guide for Texas Education Professionals
- Polaris Project Website
- Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission Website
- National Center for Missing & Exploited Children Website