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Human Trafficking in the Panhandle

Human trafficking. It's happening here on the High Plains. You could see it at the park down the street. It could start on a computer in your home. That was the case for Amarillo native, Kim Silvia.

Human trafficking. It's happening here on the High Plains.

You could see it at the park down the street. It could start on a computer in your home.

That was the case for Amarillo native, Kim Silvia.

"I was a victim of a child pornography ring and was victimized, started out online and then was victimized here in Amarillo," Silvia said. 

Silvia's experience is not uncommon.

"The average age for a girl to start being prostituted in the United States is 13 years old, which is the age I was when I got out of the situation that I was in," Silvia said. 

She got out, but others don't. And Silvia says these victims may not be who you imagine. 

"When they think human trafficking, they're thinking of the person that's chained in the basement, when the reality is, 99 percent of the time, in America, it's done through manipulation, coersion," Silvia said. 

DPS Trooper Chris Ray says trafficking is increasingly on the radar of law enforcement around the state.

"There is human trafficking, and those children are the ones who seem to be the most exposed to the violent crimes," Ray said.  

According to Trooper Ray, law enforcement is just beginning to understand human trafficking.

"We probably encounter these kids every day and we don't even know it," he said.  

The data on human trafficking is sparse. It's something that state has just begun to track.

Trooper Ray says, they're starting to find clues to how this secret world works.

"There's certain teddy bears that those people will have that indicate they're a member of a group, and this group teaches each other how to abduct kids, how to pimp them out. It's just overwhelming the information that they give each other," Ray said.

According to Trooper Ray, there are many misconceptions. Ray says while some victims come from outside the U.S., many cases happen right under your nose, the internet a feeding ground for traffickers, just as it was for Kim Silvia.

"I knew what had happened, but I didn't realize it was part of human trafficking."

Silvia was lucky. She escaped before it became something much worse.

"I began to investigate it and learn more about it, and it really just kind of changed the course of my life from that point," she said. 

Now Silvia works with an organization called 'No Boundaries', to make people aware and stop the trend.

"Reality was, I had great parents, and I was in great schools, and it was just these people know what they're looking for. And they know how to groom and how to manipulate and how to coerce," Silvia said.

Those people and their victims are exaclty who Silvia, and law enforcement are looking at - trying to understand human trafficking and stop it. 

 'No Boundaries' is starting a chapter here in the Panhandle. The organization will host a volunteer training in Amarillo on November 15th, 16th and 17th. You can still sign up to attend here.

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