UPDATED: Friday, April 13, 2012 - 9:54am
WACO -- If you think human trafficking is just a problem overseas, think again. There are hundreds of cases being investigated right here in Texas. Even in Central Texas.
Now, Texas senators are discussing legislation that would crack down on the crime. Fox 44 spoke with Baylor Sociology Professor and Human Trafficking expert, Dr. Kim Kotrla, who calls it modern day slavery.
"What we think of slavery is where it was very visible because it was legal. Now, slavery is illegal so it's much more underground," says Dr. Kotrla.
Victims are considered slaves because they are forced into labor or sexual exploitation for little to no pay.
"The most common way that victims end up in trafficking situations, and I'm talking about sexual exploitation, is by being lured through false promises of some kind," says Dr. Kotrla.
These situations even hit home in Central Texas. Just last year, a minor was exploited in Waco and down the I-35 corridor, working as a sex slave.
"If there weren't customers to purchase," Dr. Kotrla explained, "then there wouldn't be a need to provide these girls."
Former crime victims advocate, David Davis, told us the fastest growing group of victims is our own children.
"Middle class kids that get involved in relationships with older people, who get exploited without really knowing they are being exploited," said Davis. "So the sex trafficking extends to the kid next door."
However, experts say most at risk are runaways and homeless teens.
and traffickers know that group will be easily lured with promises.
"There have been lots of interviews with traffickers, and they say we know what to look for. We know who to target. We know who the most vulnerable are. We can tell. and We will go to those place," says Dr. Kotrla.
Senators stepped up Wednesday to pass legislation that would make it easier to prosecute these cases, give harsher punishment for the criminals and have more protection for victims.