Since the beginning of his tenure, Fort Bend District Attorney Brian M. Middleton has been relentless in his fight to deal with the issue of human trafficking in Fort Bend County.
Although he was denied the more than $630,000 in grant funds he requested from Gov. Greg Abbott’s office in 2019 to help him start a human trafficking division in the Fort Bend County DA’s office, Middleton made it a key priority to pursue other grant opportunities to address the many human trafficking problems in the county he was responsible for protecting.
As a result of his resilience and the tireless focus he had to achieve that goal, Middleton successfully assembled a team of prosecutors, investigators and analysts, who work together with the Human Trafficking Rescue Alliance (HTRA) and other law enforcement agencies to rescue victims of human trafficking, and arrest and prosecute the people who are trafficking them.
At the very onset, Middleton hit the ground running and immediately worked with the HTRA, Fort Bend County Pct. 3 Constable Wayne Thompson’s office, 22 local, state and federal agencies to pull off a nine-day (July 8-25) sting operation known as “Operation Freedom” which resulted in 64 arrests related to human trafficking and five adults and two teenage girls being rescued.
This past September, the Fort Bend County DA’s office held two separate operations called “Operation Patriot” that took place over the course of four different days (Sept. 9, Sept. 11 and Sept. 22-23) in Fort Bend County. The operations, which were conducted in collaboration with 23 other local agencies, resulted in 46 men being arrested on prostitution-related charges, five alleged pimps being arrested and five adult female victims being rescued.
Earlier this month, Middleton announced that in collaboration with HTRA and other agencies, 30 people had been arrested during a three-day sting operation called “Operation Cupid” and that one juvenile victim had been rescued.
Middleton’s office has methodically focused on combatting trafficking consistently, but he realizes that the work does not always stop with one arrest. The investigations that are conducted by the Fort Bend County DA’s office often reveal additional victims and other perpetrators, which is why Middleton remains committed to identifying all individuals who prey on the most vulnerable, whether their role is big or small in the equation. This commitment led to the arrests of two suspects this year who were identified from an earlier human trafficking investigation.
Dewayne Demarcus Cook was arrested in late 2019 and was later indicted for Continuous Trafficking of Persons, specifically a child, and Sexual Assault of a Child. The ongoing investigation ultimately uncovered two more individuals who allegedly committed crimes against that child as well. Estoshia Roddy was indicted for Sexual Assault of a Child and is now in custody on that charge and Tameka Ross has also been arrested for Trafficking of Persons.
As aforementioned, this focus on addressing the issue of human trafficking has been a focal point of Middleton’s since day one of his administration.
“I’ve said from day one that my administration will relentlessly pursue human traffickers and those who commit these horrific crimes,” said Middleton. “These arrests demonstrate the tireless efforts of my office and our law enforcement partners to win the fight.”
The City of Houston is a popular entryway for internationally trafficked persons due to its two large, international airports and the Port of Houston, which is the largest international port in the United States and the thirteenth busiest in the world. With parts of Houston being in Fort Bend County, it makes it even more challenging to address this ongoing issue.
According to the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), the City of Houston is not only the largest hub in Texas, it is also one of the largest hubs for human trafficking in the nation, in that Houston has over 200 active brothels, with two new brothels that open each month.
According to Texas Attorney General’s office, roughly 235,000 people in Texas are victims of human trafficking at any time and nearly 80,000 children in Texas have fallen victim to human trafficking. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services estimates that between 240,000 and 325,000 American children and youth are at risk for sex trafficking each year.
Age is the primary factor in vulnerability to get caught up in human trafficking, in that pre-teen or adolescent girls are more susceptible to the calculated advances, deception, and manipulation tactics used by traffickers/pimps. Sadly, no young person, regardless of age, is exempt from falling prey to these tactics. Victims can be any age and are trafficked by anyone, including family members, extended relatives, friends, spouses and partners, as well as acquaintances and strangers. Traffickers target locations that young people usually frequent and congregate such as social media sites, schools, malls, parks, bus stops, shelters and group homes. Runaway or homeless youth are a primary target, but those who have a history of physical and sexual abuse may have an increased risk of being trafficked.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline receives more calls from Texas than any other state in the U.S., with 80 percent of those trafficked being female and half being children. The average age that a teen enters the sex trafficking trade in the U.S. is 12- to 14-years old, with many of the victims being runaway girls who were sexually abused as children.
80% of human trafficking involves sex trafficking and 19 percent involves forced labor trafficking. The DOJ generally classifies human trafficking into two major categories:
- Sex trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing or soliciting of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act is 17 or younger.
- Labor trafficking involves the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtainment of a person through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
The U.S. State Department estimates that 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year, with between 14,500 to 17,500 people being trafficked into the U.S. each year. Of the estimated $150 Billion world-wide income from human trafficking, an estimated $99 Billion is attributed to sex trafficking worldwide, with roughly $9.5 Billion being earned in the U.S. annually.
As one can see, this is not only big business, but it is a big problem.
Thankfully, individuals like Fort Bend County District Attorney Brian Middleton is focused on addressing this issue, by any means necessary.
If you, or someone you know needs help or if you need to report human trafficking, please contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline by:
- Phone: 888-373-7888
- Text message: Text HELP to BEFREE (233733)
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org