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Public Safety News
Harris County Attorney's Office
News Release
Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan announced today the appointment of ten volunteer lawyers to assist the Office in shutting down illegal businesses where human trafficking is occurring. Free the Captives, a non-profit anti-human trafficking organization, recruited the volunteer lawyers who have varied backgrounds, ranging from a retired judge to solo practitioners to corporate attorneys.

The attorneys will receive training from and work under the supervision of Linda Geffin, Chief of the County Attorney’s Special Prosecutions Unit. The Special Prosecutions Unit uses civil court orders to close places that knowingly harbor the criminal element.

“Reducing these businesses that attract criminal activity is a priority for our Office,” County Attorney Ryan said.  “This program is an innovative way for our Office to fulfill our commitment to help improve neighborhoods.”

Human trafficking is the illegal trade in human beings for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor, a modern-day form of slavery. According to the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, the government estimates that more than 18,000 victims are trafficked into the U.S. each year and more than 3,600 “slaves” (20 percent) of the identified victims of human trafficking are moved through Texas each year. Geffin said that businesses posing as massage parlors and after hours bars are often fronts for human trafficking.

“These businesses attract other criminal elements and become a public nuisance and destroy neighborhoods,” she said.

“Pro bono attorneys serve such an important role and can make a huge difference in the fight against human trafficking with a minimal time commitment. Houston is a hub for domestic and international human trafficking. We are always looking for more attorneys to join our team,” said Julie Waters, an attorney who is the executive director and founder of Free the
Captives.






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