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New Patrol Officer Anti-Trafficking Training in Texas Leads to 341 Child Rescues

Texas patrol officers are trained to spot drunk driving, drug trafficking, and so many other offenses. So why not child trafficking, too? Now, they can. According to...

Texas patrol officers are trained to spot drunk driving, drug trafficking, and so many other offenses. So why not child trafficking, too?

Now, they can. According to a recent report by The Washington Post, a new training protocol that teaches officers how to spot victims of exploitation has resulted in 341 child trafficking rescues since the start of the program. Awesome, right?

Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) officer Derek Prestridge is responsible for building and implementing the program, called Interdiction for the Protection of Children (IPC), to the state.

Before the start of the Texas-based training program, there was no comparable or comprehensive training program to assist patrol officers in identifying exploited, at-risk, or missing children. This is actually the case across the country, too. This is a huge issue, especially because officers are the most likely law enforcement agent to come in contact with trafficking victims, especially during routine roadside investigations.

The Post’s report recounts how Prestridge challenges his training audience to think outside of the box— literally. During one class, he asked the patrol officers in the crowd: “How many of you have ever said, at the start of a shift, ‘I’m gonna get me a drunk driver tonight’?” Numerous hands rose.

“How many of you have said, ‘I’m gonna bust a drug dealer’?” Again, many hands.

“How many of you have ever said, ‘I’m going to rescue a child tonight’? Or ‘I’m going to catch a child molester’?” No response.

Prestridge asks this question at every training session—that was his 97th—and he’s become accustomed to that reaction. “Why is that?” he asked. “Why don’t police make that a goal before their shift?” His audience was silent. “I’ll tell you one reason why,” he offered. “Because there’s no box to check.”

Implementing the Program

The success of the program has been, unavoidably, difficult to quantify, according to the report. Before the creation of IPC training, Texas DPS kept no record of “child rescues.” But those hundreds of rescues are a testament to the program working, and virtually all of the troopers said the training was key in spotting victims and taking action.

Included in the program are over 361 indicators of a child trafficking situation, including “large numbers of condoms, particularly of brands sold in bulk online; and loose hard drives or SIM cards, which are often used for transporting child pornography,” according to the Post report.

According to the report, the Texas Department of Public Safety has made the training available outside of Texas, and states that have participated are also reporting upticks in child rescues. But the training is far from standard. According to Prestridge, now a captain, IPC training has reached 7,709 patrol officers and child services professionals; according to the Justice Department, there are about 750,000 police officers in the United States.

“If this training becomes routine,” Prestridge says, “we could be saving thousands of children.” And while standardizing this training is far from becoming a reality, it’s at a good start.

“Police normally think about guns and drugs,” Prestridge recalls, “but the training really opens your mind to think about children.”

And the world is better for it. A huge shout out to the patrol officers for their brave work on the frontlines of the fight against exploitation.

Fueling the Demand for Sexual Exploitation

You might be surprised to learn that pornography plays a factor in exploitation and sex trafficking.

RelatedThe Inseparable Link Between Porn And Human Trafficking

Obviously, human trafficking is an underground business, making firm statistics hard to come by. But the facts in cases that come to light are chilling. For example, in 2011, two Miami men were found guilty of spending five years luring women into a human trafficking trap. They would advertise modeling roles, then when women came to try out, they would drug them, kidnap them, rape them, videotape the abuse, and sell it as pornography.

Research shows that men who go to prostitutes are twice as likely to have watched a porn film in the last year compared to the general population. It’s also not surprising that when these customers show up, many come ready with porn images in hand to show the women they’re exploiting what they want to do.

And they’re not the only ones using porn as an illustration. “Pimps and traffickers use pornography to initiate their … victims into their new life of sexual slavery,” says Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, a former UN representative and a senior fellow at the Beverley LaHaye Institute. Through exposure to porn, these victims “get hardened to accept the inevitable and learn what is expected of them.”

Also, in a study done in 2007 of 854 women in prostitution across nine countries, 49% said that porn had been made of them while they were in prostitution, and 47% said they had been harmed by men who had either forced or tried to force them to do things the men had seen in porn.

Related: Germany’s Legalized Prostitution Industry Looks Like A Real-Life Horror Movie

We fight to bring awareness to the fact that porn isn’t harmless entertainment, and the porn industry wouldn’t be what it is today without sex trafficking and prostitution. These issues are all connected, and it’s time we fight back. Are you in it to end exploitation?

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