ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Joining a shift among law enforcement agencies across the country, a group of New Mexico sheriffs, federal agents and a dozen Texas state troopers met with adult club owners in Albuquerque Thursday to discuss ways to battle sex trafficking.
The meeting and workshops sponsored by U.S. Homeland Security Investigations were part of a broader effort to get adult industry officials and law enforcement agencies together on new initiatives aimed at tackling sex trafficking in areas around the country.
Kevin Abar, assistant special agent in charge of Home Security Investigations in New Mexico, said the purpose of the workshops is to help adult club owners look for signs of sex trafficking and to educate investigators on how club owners operate businesses.
“We wanted to get everyone in the same room and share information,” Abar said. “This is a growing problem that we all need to help address.”
The gathering also signaled a shift among law enforcement agencies to focus more on sex trafficking crimes, said Texas state trooper Maj. Shane Byrd.
“I’ve been in law enforcement for 20 years and this was never a priority for our department,” he said. “But it is now.”
Byrd said his unit is investigating at least six cases involving sex trafficking and will likely take on more in the coming week as troopers get more training.
According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, sex trafficking involves prostitution and other adult services that are induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act is under 18 years old. Often victims are drawn into sex trafficking by kidnappings, promises of a better job in another country, or being sold into the trade by family members.