SAN ANGELO, Texas — Texas is the second most prevalent state in the country for child sex trafficking, according to the Children's Advocacy Center of Greater West Texas in San Angelo.
With January being "National Human Trafficking Prevention Month," the conversation on this issue continues to grow in the United States and abroad.
On Jan. 26, the CAC organized a "Call to Action Ceremony" as a way to raise awareness regarding the dangers of "modern day slavery."
Members of local organizations such as the Tom Green County Sherriff's Department, the San Angelo Police Department and more were all in attendance to learn about this ever growing concern.
"We want to help you understand the purpose of this team, what the mission is and the direction that we're going," CAC Chief Development Officer Justin DeLoach said.
San Angelo's CAC organization was one of the first of its kind in the state of Texas and is now used as a "growing model" following its original foundation.
During the presentation, DeLoach explained there are approximately 313,000 victims of child sex trafficking in Texas as of now.
He also said one common factor is making this matter even more prevalent: social media.
"We feel like traffickers are just getting smarter as they go and they're finding ways that children are gathering," DeLoach said after the presentation.
"And that's where they're gathering is social media," he added.
The CAC's main focus is children 17 years old and younger, especially those who are active online with apps like Instagram, TikTok and Facebook to name a few.
Why is Texas the second most common state for child sex trafficking?
According to DeLoach, there are three main reasons why this might be: Texas is in the middle of the country, it is located close to the Mexico-U.S. border and it contains two major interstates to make travel simpler.
DeLoach's goal, then, is to raise awareness and try to prevent child trafficking in West Texas as much as possible.
Although San Angelo tends to be a safer community, he says this issue can happen anywhere and to anyone.
"Some [instances] we don't even know about, some are under investigation and some are happening right underneath us and we don't even realize it," DeLoach said.
The CAC hopes to offer free classes for children and adults to learn more about causes, prevention, safety, etc.
Mostly, DeLoach wants to create that "Call to Action" so locals understand the severity of trafficking in Texas and beyond.
Call 9-1-1 with any concerns or reach out to the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888. Texting is also available at 233733.