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Texas Names Special Unit to Combat Human Trafficking

The Texas Attorney General has formed a new unit to assist law-enforcement agencies with human-trafficking crimes. (southernfried/morguefile)
The Texas Attorney General has formed a new unit to assist law-enforcement agencies with human-trafficking crimes. (southernfried/morguefile)
January 19, 2016

AUSTIN, Texas - Texas is putting some legal muscle behind current efforts to combat human trafficking in the state. The Texas Attorney General's office has formed a new unit tasked with reducing both labor and sex trafficking and prosecuting the perpetrators.

Attorney General Ken Paxton says the crime is happening in all corners of the state.

"Texas, unfortunately, is at the heart of trafficking in the United States," says Paxton. "We're responsible for the nation's second-highest number of calls to the National Human Trafficking Resources Center, and Houston has the highest number of trafficking victims in the country."

Paxton says his office will use its existing budget to operate the unit. It will be staffed with five investigators, three lawyers, a forensic accountant and a victims' advocate, and will work directly to support the efforts of state and local law enforcement.

Heading the unit will be Kirsta Leeburg Melton, a 14-year veteran prosecutor from San Antonio who has worked extensively on human-trafficking cases. Melton says those who seek to enslave others into prostitution or forced labor come from all walks of life.

"Family members, cartels, gangs - they look and they see an endless supply of vulnerable humanity," says Melton. "But most of all, they see dollar signs. They see an opportunity to profit from the misery of others."

Melton has trained more than 5,000 people across the state on fighting human trafficking and has testified before the Texas Legislature on trafficking issues.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service - TX