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The Illegal Commercial Sex Industry in Houston and Harris County, TX

Texas as a whole is a major hub for human trafficking. The market for illegal commercial sex in Harris County is broad and diverse—and it’s growing every day. Local law enforcement believes that Houston is part of the trafficking rings that include Chicago, Atlanta, Florida, and California. We’ve noted more than 300 unlicensed sexually oriented businesses, such as massage parlors, cantinas, “modeling” studios, and strip clubs. According to local law enforcement, the East/Northeast area of Harris County is especially well known among sex buyers for cantinas, which are “staffed” by females from Central and South America. The Southwest area is known for illegal massage parlors and rogue topless bars primarily “serviced” by Asian women, specifically those of Chinese and Korean decent.

In Houston, victims of prostitution and human trafficking are of many different ethnicities. While specific venues such as massage parlors tend to target certain races, none of these venues only “employ” one type of woman; which is also reflected in the fact that there is no single socio-economic status among these women. However, one thing we feel is certain is that a majority of these women have histories of abuse and their current reality is shaped by force and coercion.

While it’s hard to estimate the exact breakdown between all venues, the Sheriff’s office believes that the demand for paid sex is split fairly evenly between illegal venues and online solicitation.  Specifically, a recent study completed by Arizona State University shows that 20% of Houston area males are actively searching for and soliciting commercial sex online.

If a sex-buyer is willing, there’s no shortage of options for him in Harris County.

How CEASE Houston is addressing the problem

The CEASE Houston team consists of specialists, philanthropic partners, survivor leaders, law enforcement officers, and other highly qualified individuals. We’re working all together towards a single goal: stopping the demand for illegal commercial sex in Harris County. There are many ways in which the Houston team is addressing this issues, including: ongoing sting operations, reaching out to sex oriented businesses about the dangers of prostitution, developing partnerships with local businesses to help them implement anti-trafficking policies, posting decoy advertisements on john boards, engaging buyers in conversations about the harms of prostitution and the efforts of law enforcement, and implementing social media campaigns.