SAN ANTONIO — Local law enforcement and a San Antonio nonprofit are working together to combat human sex trafficking in Bexar County, and preventing others from being lured in the process.
Earlier this week, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) announced the Blush Show Club and Restaurant on the northeast side can no longer sell alcohol, following a multi-agency investigation revealing a man allegedly forced a 16-year-old girl to dance at the club.
Bexar County Sheriff's deputies arrested Eric Taylor last November on human trafficking charges.
Erin Barry, director of Centro Seguro, said victims providing information to law enforcement or testifying in cases such as these is vital to catch traffickers.
"We've always had a huge problem in Bexar County with sex trafficking, but now that we have actually a resource to save some of those victims or a place for the victims to go, we're seeing it," Barry said.
Roy Maas Youth Alternatives's Centro Seguro is a 24-hour drop-in center for trafficking victims. It also helps those between the ages of 5 and 24 who are homeless, runaways or otherwise at-risk youth.
"It's helping to get young people off the streets," said Centro Seguro's outreach specialist, Charles "Chuck" Paul. "Because when they're out there, they are going to get exploited. It's not a case of 'if,' its a case of 'when,' because the bad guys are out there looking for them."
According to H.E.A.T. Watch, one in four victims of human trafficking are children.
"They are out there," Paul said. "These are the young people you may see working late nights at a motel or a hotel or a restaurant, and they are coming out back or they just look like they are too young to be there."
Funding from Gov. Greg Abbott's Office and local donors has helped keep the doors open. It also equips the center with a full staff and counselors working around the clock to provide survivors the help they need and preventing others from becoming victims.
"Call," Paul said. "It's everyone's business. These are everyone's children because it happens everywhere."
Centro Seguro has set up a Safe Place program, where certain locations with the yellow Safe Place sign will give those looking for help the resources they need.
The center also has a 24-hour hotline, reachable at (210)340-8090; or anyone can text "SAFE" to 4HELP.
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