Bexar county law enforcement is warning the public about a sharp rise in missing person cases, possibly due to human trafficking.
The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office received 155 calls for missing persons in the last month alone, more than double last year’s numbers, according to Fox 29.
In one case, Philip and Sylvia Martinez haven’t seen their missing 13-year-old granddaughter for 150 days.
“I just want to know that she’s fine, who she’s with, because she’s like my daughter,” said Philip Martinez.
Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar was shocked by the numbers.
“We’ve gotten 155 calls. The same time period last year, we had 68. So, that tells me that those numbers are up drastically. I don’t know why,” said Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar. “That’s pretty dramatic.”
But Kelly Riddle, a local private investigator, is not surprised. He believes the cases have something to do with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With everybody closed up with Covid, you know, a lot of the lot of the teenagers are needing to get out and see their friends,” said Riddle, who added that teens aged 12-17 are the most vulnerable for human trafficking crimes.
“They’re trying to bridge into adulthood. And they’re not really sure how to do that a lot of times, and so they’re, they’re easily baited into scenarios that they wouldn’t normally if they were a little older,” Riddle said.
Riddle said that parents should keep an eye on what their children are doing online.
They’re young, they’re trying to figure out how to get into adulthood. And because of that, you know, with COVID thrown in the mix, I mean, you’ve really got to pay attention to them.”
The BCSO is holding human trafficking seminars to address the situation.
Bexar County, Texas is the fourth largest county in Texas, with San Antonio as its county seat.
Texas has recently been a hot spot for human trafficking operations. In October, the Tarrant County Sheriff’s office arrested 115 individuals on felony charges related to human and sex trafficking after a multi-operation operation was busted.
The recent migrant wave into Texas from across the Mexican border is also contributing to a rise in human trafficking across the state. On Nov. 10, authorities found 60 migrants being transported illegally in the back of a truck near Big Bend, Texas. Some of the migrants were children, and others were convicted felons being smuggled back into the country.