AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin police are asking for public help to combat human trafficking at the South By Southwest festival, officials wrote in a press release Thursday.
“As many know, SXSW brings thousands of visitors to Austin from around the world and our goal is to keep you, your family and our community safe while striving to be one of the safest cities in America,” officials wrote. “Human Trafficking is a hidden crime that includes Sex Trafficking and Labor Trafficking, both of which occur every day in communities around the country and in Austin.”
How you can help
Police list a few ways you can help them:
- Identify victims and provide information to the authorities
- Report social media posts that offer sex for money in Austin because police say most sex trafficking happens on social media
- Be aware of the information you post online because traffickers are also searching for new victims
According to Kari Hamilton, who directs SAFE Alliance’s CARES program for trafficking victims, traffickers usually pick out and exploit people who are in vulnerable situations, namely the homeless, children in the foster care system and members of the LGBTQ community.
Hamilton says college-aged adults who are out at parties over the next couple of weekends are also at risk.
“Any situation that you’re looking at two individuals, maybe there’s a drastic age difference, there’s some power play dynamics going on that doesn’t kind of sit right with your gut…we can pick up on those things,” Hamilton said. “It’s just listening to your instinct. Sometimes we’re afraid to make that call or put a tip out there because we’re like, ‘Oh, we don’t really know,’— that doesn’t matter. Better to be safe than sorry.”
Austin’s Formula One event lost millions of dollars in state funding because organizers were late to submit a human trafficking prevention plan. Last month, the Governor’s office announced it would not reimburse the Circuit of the Americas $20-million dollars for last year’s race. CoTA officials say they’ve had a human trafficking prevention plan in place and they’re still working with the state to resolve the issue.
State law requires events to submit human trafficking prevention plans at least 30 days in advance in order to receive funds from the state’s Major Events Reimbursement Program. KXAN checked and found that South by Southwest has not applied for those funds ,so there’s no state requirement to submit a human trafficking plan. KXAN reached out to the city of Austin and APD to see if the city requires a human trafficking plan, but they did not say.
If you or someone you know is being trafficked or recruited into trafficking, call 911. If you have information related to possible human trafficking, you can also call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.