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Dallas police charge 2 women after human trafficking raid, victims found

This story, originally published in The Dallas Morning News, is reprinted as part of a collaborative partnership between The Dallas Morning News and Texas Metro News. The partnership seeks to boost coverage of Dallas’ communities of color, particularly in southern Dallas.

Two victims told police they were forced into prostitution, Dallas police said.

By Aria Jones

Police
File photo.(Irwin Thompson / Staff Photographer)

Dallas police arrested two women after a human trafficking raid was prompted by two victimswho said they were forced into prostitution, police said on Monday.

Five women were found at an apartment complex in the 5900 block of Arapaho Road in Far North Dallas on Friday, said the commander of the Dallas police vice unit at a news conference on Monday.

Police said Arely Lopez-Guzman and Fabiola Cardenas, who are both 38, each face two charges of compelling prostitution and two charges of trafficking a person.

Cardenas is being held at the Dallas jail on a $100,000 bond for the charges. She is also an unauthorized citizen and has a hold from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to jail records.

Police investigated the human trafficking ring because two victims were brave enough to come forward, Dallas Police Lt. Lisette Rivera said.

The victims were offered help from an organization that provides services to human trafficking survivors, she said.

The commander said the women were lured into human trafficking through social media while looking for work. Rivera said people are “forced, coerced or compelled” into human trafficking, unlike prostitution, which is consensual.

Lt. Lisette Rivera
Lt. Lisette Rivera, of the Dallas Police Department Vice Unit, announces recent arrests in a human trafficking operation, on Monday morning, Jan. 31, 2022 at the Dallas Police Department Headquarters in Dallas.(Ben Torres / Special Contributor)

“There are people out there that will take advantage of those that are the most vulnerable, those that have food insecurities, housing insecurities,” Rivera said.

Prevalent problem

Texas is second only to California in human trafficking, Rivera said.

“We do have a problem in D-FW,” Rivera said. “We’ve always had a problem, but the difference is now that there is more education and that there is more public awareness, so we will see more cases because of that. But the demand in sex, it has always been the same.”

The operation was the result of a monthslong investigation. Police also executed search warrants at two other locations, Rivera said.

She said operations like this require manpower from law enforcement and collaboration with nongovernmental organizations like Mosaic Family Services, which offered help Friday. Other police units like SWAT and the North Central and Northwest crime response teams and Homeland Security agents were also involved.

“It is never easy to have someone sit down with us and talk about some of the worst moments in their life,” Rivera said. “Unfortunately, we can’t move forward with an investigation unless we have these victims come and tell us their stories.”

Signs of human trafficking

Most people don’t realize that human trafficking is a systemic problem, said Timothy Bray, director of the University of Texas at Dallas Institute for Urban Policy Research.

“The reality is, most of us are encountering victims of sex trafficking and we don’t know it because we don’t know the signs and we don’t know how to get them the help that they need,” Bray said.

The institute began partnering with Dallas police to identify systemic problems that lead to human trafficking in October, Bray said. The institute is working to build awareness of the issue, he said, and give businesses information about how to recognize the signs.

Victims may avoid eye contact, appear malnourished, show signs of physical injury and avoid social interaction and authority figures, Bray said.

“I think there’s still sort of some confusion that people have that people just choose to go into this line of work,” Bray said. “But the victims of human sex trafficking are never there by choice.”

He said traffickers hold onto victim’s identifying documents as leverage over them.

Rivera said police encounter victims from all over, including from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. She added that police do not inquire about immigration status.

Victims of human trafficking can call 911, and if they wish to remain anonymous, they can contact the Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

“We just want you to be safe,” Rivera said.

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