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As Dallas builds a locally funded treatment center to provide services for victims of sex traffickers, a state legislative committee is looking at whether Texas needs to do more to help others statewide.
Dallas police said they identify more than 100 underage girls annually who have been coerced into prostitution. Those who prostitute them face criminal charges.
But officials believe the young women need time, space and professional help to recover. Dallas broke ground this month for the Letot Girls’ Center, which will provide residential treatment for as many as 96 victims a year.
There are no similar programs at the state level, but the Legislature’s Joint Interim Committee to Study Human Trafficking is looking at possible changes in state law and programs to help victims. The committee meets Tuesday in Houston to hear from nonprofit groups, cities and counties about their programs and unmet needs.
Sex trafficking has been reported statewide. A recent state attorney general’s report, while acknowledging difficulty identifying victims and a lack of standardized reporting, confirmed 369 cases over four years. More than 95 percent of those were pushed to enter prostitution.
The interim committee is studying how to provide better services for trafficking victims and modify laws to better reflect their needs.