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March 29, 2018

#NotInTX: TABC Partners With Houston-area Alcoholic Beverage Industry to End Human Trafficking at Licensed Businesses

AUSTIN – The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is joining with members of the alcoholic beverage industry to eradicate human trafficking on TABC-licensed premises.

Human trafficking is the forced or coerced exploitation of persons, often by criminal organizations operating across state and international borders. According to the research by the University of Texas, an estimated 313,000 people in Texas are victims of human trafficking, with 79,000 of those below the age of 21. Victims include both adults and children, and may sometimes be held at a legitimate TABC-licensed business serving as a front for the illegal activity.

"Human trafficking is nothing more than modern-day slavery, and it has no place in Texas," TABC Chairman Kevin Lilly said. "Our goal is nothing less than the complete eradication of human trafficking at TABC-licensed businesses, and we're thankful for the many members of the alcoholic beverage industry who are joining us for this mission."

TABC has scheduled several training sessions for Houston-area industry members to help their employees identify the warning signs of human trafficking and report those signs via anonymous complaint. TABC law enforcement personnel will conduct surveillance of any locations identified in the complaints to determine if criminal activity is taking place.

Houston-area training sessions are scheduled for: March 30 and April 3, Silver Eagle Distributors; April 10, Favorite Brands; April 11, Republic National Distributing Co.; April 16, Ben E. Keith Beverages; and April 25, Faust Distributing. Additional training sessions will be scheduled throughout the state during 2018, according to TABC Executive Director Bentley Nettles.

"We're starting this as a voluntary effort for the remainder of 2018," Nettles said. "Any industry member who wishes to receive the training can contact their local TABC office. However, beginning in 2019, we're going to seek a rule change which would make this training mandatory for delivery drivers within the distribution tier."

In addition to the industry training, TABC has begun a new campaign intended to raise public awareness of human trafficking within licensed businesses. The "#NotInTX" campaign uses social media, printed materials and videos to help the public identify the warning signs of human trafficking and provide information on ways to report suspected illegal activity to the TABC or to local law enforcement authorities.

TABC has played a leading role in fighting human trafficking in Texas since the agency's formation by the Legislature in 1935. In 2004 and 2005, a joint investigation involving TABC and the FBI resulted in the rescue of nearly 120 women and girls who had been enslaved and forced into prostitution in the Houston area. Further operations statewide have resulted in the cancellation of more than 100 permits with ties to organized crime, including narcotics trafficking, drink solicitation, and other violations frequently tied to human trafficking.

"Human trafficking not only ruins the lives of the victims, it has a tremendous impact on public safety for law-abiding citizens and businesses," said Lilly. "By ending human trafficking at TABC-licensed businesses, we can make the alcoholic beverage industry safer for our business owners and our community. I'm extremely grateful for the dozens of industry members who are tackling this problem head-on and working with their employees and the TABC to ensure a safe Texas for all."

For more information about TABC's efforts to combat human trafficking, please visit the agency's Human Trafficking page. To report suspected human trafficking at a TABC-licensed business, please contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or submit an anonymous complaint via the TABC:Mobile smartphone app available as a free download for IOS or Android devices.

Contact: Chris Porter TABC Public Information Officer (512) 206-3462