Walt Investigates: Austin part of sex trafficking triangle
AUSTIN, Texas —
Sex trafficking is on the rise and Austin is right in the middle of it all.
Austin is in what is known as the triangle. Victims are transported from Dallas to Houston to San Antonio, putting Austin dead center where big events and big crowds mean big business.
When music festivals and big events like F1 rev up, Austin police know that sinister side shows roll into town as well.
"A lot of human trafficking rings and sex trafficking rings target special events," Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said. "You see the call girls come into town. You see the pimps come into town so it is an issue. It is a concern for us."
Advocates say that concern isn't just prostitution -- it's slavery.
"Going through that, I always felt alone," Cynthia Borsellino said. "I felt dead inside."
Cynthia Borsellino is a sex trafficking survivor turned advocate.
When Cynthia Borsellino ran away at the age of 15 opportunistic criminals found her, groomed her, and sold her.
"I traveled with the carnival," Borsellino said. "I would go to a lot of events."
Chief Acevedo says he believes traffickers are recruiting for events like this right now.
"We've had anything here from local kids, young people being involved, local residents being involved to young woman that have actually been kidnapped and trafficked in sex," Chief Acevedo said.
The Austin Police Department trains officers to know the warning signs but Chief Acevedo says the public often holds the key to break the chains.
"We have something called gut instinct," Chief Acevedo said. "That little voice that tells you, hey, something is not right."
Speaking up is the one thing victims may not do for themselves.
"They don't feel that they have a voice, that they're valued at all, even to the point where you don't even feel human," Borsellino said.
Now that Cynthia found her voice, she hopes to change that.
"You don't deserve this kind of life," Borsellino said. "You deserve so much better."
The FBI says sex trafficking is the fastest-growing business of organized crime and it's the third-largest criminal enterprise in the world. The second highest number of cases in the nation is right here in Texas.
CLICK HERE for signs to watch for.