ADDISON – A business owner is speaking out on the signs of human trafficking that she says just about anyone can spot.
Ashlee Kleinert says she wants everyone in North Texas paying attention for odd activity in places that seem otherwise innocuous and tranquil.
She told News 8 she first noticed something out of place in the spring of 2011 near her business in Addison off Keller Springs.
“I thought [sex trafficking] maybe [happens] downtown, or the bus station or the airport, but not actually in my sleepy little office park,” Kleinert said.
The signs started to add up.
Kleinert said the first thing she noticed were abundant parking spots suddenly disappearing, and then men coming and going at all hours to another office just a few doors down.
“We thought that office was empty — it still had signage in the window from the previous tenant,” Kleinert said.
So Kleinert did what any friendly neighbor does and stopped by to introduce herself.
“It appeared I had woken the person up inside the office space,” Kleinert said. “She’d been [renting the space] two or three months, but she didn’t have any business cards. It was dark inside. It didn’t appear to be a legitimate business.”
Kleinert and co-workers acted on their intuition and reached out to Addison police, which shut down the business.
“It was just a big eye opener to us, that it could be anywhere and that anyone could see it and notice it,” Kleinert said.
Jeoff Williams of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) said recognition of the problem has been a huge step in Texas.
“Twenty years in law enforcement, it’s the most despicable thing that I’ve ever seen,” Williams said.
Williams is a captain and started the first human trafficking unit in North Texas with the DPS in early 2013.
In that time, Williams said his DPS team has rescued 34 victims – 21 of whom were juveniles – and arrested more than fifty for sex trafficking.
Texas currently ranks as the second-most prevalent state for the forced transport of people in the country.
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