November 7, 2008
More than 30 social service providers and law enforcement officials from Central Texas met Oct. 23, 2008, at the Catholic Charities in Waco, Texas, to learn more about human trafficking, often referred to as the modern-day slave trade.
Experts on the topic from across Texas and one official from Washington, D.C., gathered to share their expertise on services and protection of trafficking victims, prosecution of traffickers, processes for applying for t- and u-visas, and state and national human trafficking legislation.
"We have come a long way, but we realize we still have a lot of work to do," said Kim Kotrla, assistant professor in the Baylor School of Social Work. Kotrla was the coordinator of this event and of the first awareness workshop on human trafficking held in Waco last year at Baylor. During the past year, there have been several meetings with representatives of about 30 agencies, she said.
"This training was another step in seeing that our community is prepared to respond to human trafficking cases in our area," Kotrla said.
The next step for the group is to identify an education and outreach strategy for educating the community about this issue. "We hope to establish a systematic, coordinated method of exchanging communication and find ways to increase community awareness on this topic," Kotrla said.
Presenters included Stephanie D. Weber, executive director of the Houston Rescue and Restore Coalition (HRRC); Steven Goff, coalition manager of the HRRC; Robin Jones, program specialist with the Trafficking in Persons Program, Office of Refugee Resettlement, Administration for Children and Families, Washington, DC; Sgt. Chris Burchell, Sex Crimes/Violent Crimes/Human Trafficking/Child Abuse Unit of the Bexar County sheriff's office; Sgt. Mike Barnett, Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, Houston; Kendall Antonelli, Policy Asylum Project of Austin; and Jennifer Solak, policy analyst with Children at Risk, Houston.
Attendees included staff from the Advocacy Center for Crime Victims and Children, the Family Abuse Center, Catholic Charities, the Ruth Project, Child Protective Services, and Communities in Schools. Also attending were law Enforcement officials from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, the U.S. Department of Labor, the Waco Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, and the Texas Department of Public Safety.
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