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Jan 14, 2020

TABC is on Front Lines of Combating Human Trafficking in Texas

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month

AUSTIN – Human trafficking is a modern-day form of slavery, and the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is focused on disrupting and disbanding human trafficking networks across the Lone Star State.

"TABC is on the front lines when it comes to stopping human trafficking in Texas," TABC Chairman Kevin J. Lilly said. "What some people forget is that alcohol retailers such as bars or restaurants can sometimes serve as a legitimate front for traffickers or other organized crime syndicates. What TABC is doing is using our authority over all alcohol retailers, distributors and manufacturers to build a network of industry members, law enforcement agencies and citizens to stop this blight on our state."

Just in time for Human Trafficking Awareness Month, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission marked the 21st liquor license cancelled due to human trafficking-related charges since 2017.

Southlake's Dragon House restaurant lost its right to sell alcohol in December 2019 after a joint TABC/Dallas Police Department investigation uncovered evidence that the business' owners were using the restaurant to hide illegal profits from an alleged human trafficking operation at a Dallas massage parlor they also owned.

The case is one of dozens investigated by TABC since the Texas Legislature made fighting human trafficking a priority for the agency in 2019. As a police agency and Texas' sole regulator of alcoholic beverages, TABC agents are charged with investigating any illegal activity inside a TABC-licensed business. Since it was formed in 2013, the agency's Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has closed more than 150 businesses on charges of organized criminal activity such as human trafficking, money laundering and narcotics trafficking. To accomplish this work, SIU works both alone and with other agencies at the local, federal and state level.

In addition to investigating potential human trafficking within licensed businesses, TABC partners with alcoholic beverage industry members to provide training on common trafficking warning signs. After beginning this training initiative, TABC received an influx of human trafficking reports resulting in a 175 percent increase in new trafficking investigations.

The agency is also working with the Texas Legislature to identify new ways for TABC to contribute to the fight against human trafficking. The Texas House of Representatives' Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee will examine the agency's methods throughout 2020 and is expected to make additional recommendations during the 87th Legislature in 2021.

None of TABC's recent successes in fighting trafficking would've been possible without the help of everyday Texans, according to TABC Executive Director Bentley Nettles.

"The bottom line is that we continue to rely on concerned Texans to report suspected trafficking and to point us toward the illegal activity that may otherwise go unnoticed," Nettles said. "I can't express how proud I am of our alcoholic beverage industry members, our elected lawmakers, and our hardworking TABC agents and employees who are working to end this horrible crime and make Texas a safer place for all."

To learn more about TABC and the fight against human trafficking, visit our Human Trafficking page.

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