DALLAS -- Playgrounds sit empty, bikes go unused, and the number of locks on doors seems to keep increasing. We live in a world where parents try harder and harder to protect their kids, yet it never seems to be enough.
“In the State of Texas, there are 79,000 minors under the age of 18, that are being trafficked at any given time," said Traffick911 CEO George Lynch, citing a study Governor Greg Abbott commissioned through the University of Texas.
Human trafficking wasn't really a problem in our past, but it certainly scares us now, and the numbers back it up. What you may not know, though, is most of these traffickers and pimps don't just pop out of vans like on the silver screen.
“They lay out bait, traps if you would, that would be encouraging to a young person, so the idea of romance or material goods," Lynch said.
Protecting your kids from these predators is key, and that aspect of prevention is a specialty for Traffick911. Their three points of emphasis are Prevention, Intervention, and Empowerment, and they're turning lives around every day.
What about the kids already on the street and in danger, though? Another study cited by Lynch said one third of kids on the street for 48 hours or more will come into contact with human traffickers. They need safe places in a pinch, and lucky for them there's a plan in place from a national group called Safe Place.
In Dallas, it starts with the bright yellow buses, vans, and trains we see everywhere we turn.
DART is the initial beacon of hope for kids in need. They just have to jump on the bus and tell the driver they need a Safe Place.
“The driver will contact their supervisor," explained Landon Cole, the Volunteer and Youth Engagement Manager at Jonathan's Place.
QuikTrip gas stations all across the Metroplex then play the role of the drop point.
“The supervisor will meet the bus," Cole said.
Last stop is an emergency shelter and so much more at Jonathan's Place.
“Either I’m going out or someone else from Jonathan’s Place is going out to offer that youth assistance," Cole said.
Kids have a home-like atmosphere where they don't have to worry about what's lurking around the corner.
The Safe Place designation is just part of Jonathan's Place's efforts to help kids. They have the emergency shelter, foster care and adoption services, a girls residential treatment program to rehabilitate girls between 10 and 17 who have gone through some sort of emotional or physical trauma, and a transitional living program to assist girls who have aged out of foster care but haven't quite adjusted to life in the real world.
A safe place can be a locked door, a bus, a gas station, or a shelter, but most of all it has to be available, and you can at least feel safe in Dallas County knowing our businesses are doing their best to provide a Safe Place.
If you need to locate a Safe Place in Texas, click here for a list.