Texas law enforcement is getting ready to enforce a new law that aims to crack down on prostitution and sex trafficking in the state by increasing the penalty for those who buy sex.
Recently, Texas has seen an uptick in prostitution. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, Texas is a hotbed for sex trafficking cases, and is ranked No. 2 in the nation in that category of crime.
Now, under Texas House Bill 2795, the crime of solicitation of prostitution will be a felony punishable with up to two years in jail. According to NBC News, Texas is one of the first states to make buying sex a felony.
Harris County Precinct 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey and District J Houston Council Member Edward Pollard took the opportunity at a news conference to remind the community about the law that goes into effect on Sept. 1.
The law comes after a rise in sex trafficking activity, especially around Bissonet Street between Beltway 8 and the Southwest Freeway – an area Polland and Ramsey said is one of the nation’s hot spots for sex trafficking.
Pollard said the problem came to his attention after a young girl wrote him a letter about the issue.
“She said it bothered her to leave school and see prostitutes walking up an down the street,” said Pollard. “She questioned if I cared about the area. That letter really touched me and I vowed to my staff that we make this issue a priority.”
Pollard also received videos of crimes on the street sent to him from members of the community. One video showed a woman “barely covered” with cars stopping by to solicit, Pollard said.
Author of the bill Rep. Senfronia Thompson said the goal is to reduce demand by punishing those who partake in prostitutes.
“We know the demand is the driving force behind human trafficking,” Thompson said. “If we can curb or stamp out the demand end of it, then we can save the lives of numerous persons.”
One of the first steps to deal with enforcing the new law is to set up cameras along the street. KTRK said that law enforcement agencies also met on Aug. 31 to form a strategy on how to enforce the law and to address the root cause of prostitution, while helping the victims of sex trafficking.
In 2020, the state Department of Public Safety reported that approximately 1.8 million online commercial sex ads were posted in the area, with over 300,000 suspected to be children.