AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Department of Public Safety hit a milestone on Wednesday, reporting the 500th child rescued during traffic stops since implementing a program to specialize officers in spotting evidence of abduction, human trafficking, child pornography and sexual assault.
The Interdiction for the Protection of Children program began in 2009 and aimed to teach officers to spot indicators that a child is in danger. The training prepares officers to remove children from these situations and aids DPS in investigating these crimes.
“This is an outstanding contribution to public safety by our troopers who identified and rescued children during standard traffic stops,” DPS Director Steven McCraw said in a statement. “It helped us take reprehensible criminals who prey on one of our most vulnerable populations off the streets.”
Texas tops the nation in human trafficking instances, according to the 2018 Federal Human Trafficking Report. Across the state, 79,000 minors are victims.
SAFE Austin reports that warning signs of human trafficking include everything from signs of physical abuse to truancy issues and emotional and social behavior, and they encourage citizens to familiarize themselves with the signs in order to help in detecting and preventing the statewide problem.
In the 10 years since the program’s implementation, IPC has trained more than 10,000 people to better deal with these crimes and has prompted changes to how agencies across the country approach child safety concerns. The program is administered to troopers across two days and 16 hours, focusing on an interdisciplinary to train all people involved in combating these crimes, including law enforcement, prosecutors, victim services and child advocacy center professionals.
The department says the program is motivated by one message: “Stop waiting for the children to ask you for help.”