HOUSTON — Thousands of Texas kids who walk to school could be passing by a massage business fronting for human trafficking and sexual exploitation.
According to a new study from the non-profit, “Children at Risk,” over 35,000 children attending Texas public schools are within just 1,000 feet of a massage parlor suspected of offering illegal, sexual services to its customers.
“We went to a website, sort of the Yelp for sexual exploitation, and we were able to find in sordid detail what is happening at these operations. And a lot of them are happening in affluent neighborhoods and suburbs,” Dr. Robert Sanborn, president and CEO of Children at Risk, said.
In Harris County, more than 300,000 kids attend schools within a mile of those illegal establishments.
Schools like Edgar Allan Poe Elementary, where Bree Nichols has a first grader.
“I’d love to see it cracked down on harder because I’m sure the women involved in those situations could benefit from that,” Nichols said.
“It’s an unsettling situation being that close to hundreds of kids,” parent Leighton Dicksonsaid.
To help raise awareness, parents can now use the interactive map on the organization’s website to search for these trafficking hotbeds and know where their kids should avoid.
“If you type in the zip code of the school, it will show you exactly how many miles and feet the school is from a suspected illegal massage business,” said Dr. David McClendon, assistant director of Children at Risk.
With the help of law enforcement, there’s a push for more legislation like Texas House Bill 2552, to penalize landlords and businesses turning a blind eye to human trafficking.
“If you have an idea that your property is being utilized for the purposes of trafficking persons, then you are in big trouble. We’re going to take your property and you’ll have to come down here and disprove that none of these things we’re accusing you of are correct,” representative Senfronia Thompson said.