How an Innovative Program Combats Sex Trafficking

One Texas Trooper’s very good idea for helping kids and combating sex trafficking is getting national attention.

Derek Prestridge, an officer in the Texas Department of Public Safety, read about the breakup of a child sex trafficking ring that had regularly traveled through his jurisdiction. He got to thinking about whether any of his officers might have encountered the car – and if so, would they have known how to spot that there were children were in danger? Police were trained to look for signs of criminal activities like drug trafficking – but not how to recognize endangered children.

When it turned out no program existed to help law enforcement recognize when children are being trafficked, Prestridge took action. He worked with criminal analysts and victims services counselors to build one themselves. The training program they created teaches police to look for indicators, like drivers who are older and unrelated to their victims, carry lots of cash and throwaway pre-paid phones, or have small amounts of illegal drugs to control their captives.

Since 2009, police across Texas have attended the training, resulting in hundreds of pimps and kidnappers being arrested and over 300 children rescued. Inspired by the results, other states have adopted the program with similar success.

Most recently, in January, a bipartisan bill was introduced to fund the program nationwide. As Captain Prestridge told the Washington Post last year, “If this training becomes routine, we could be saving thousands of children.”

Sadly, child sex trafficking is widespread around the world, and in the U.S., 60% of domestic child trafficking victims have a history in the child welfare system. Prestidge’s innovative program can help combat this pervasive problem. Read more about the program here.