Local policeman sets record straight about human trafficking in Stephenville


Kailei Pritchard

Lieutenant Gresham warns teens about the dangers of social media and human trafficking.

Kenna Luttrell and Asia Hays, Staff Writer

   Each day that a person turns on the TV to listen to the news, there is a story about human trafficking. In the past year, this has caused rumors to fly around the small town of Stephenville- Rumors such as sex traffickers in vans hanging out in the local Walmart parking lot waiting to kidnap young girls and women.

   “There are myths floating around that associate human trafficking with all of the “I got followed in Walmart” stories, but you’re more likely to get struck by lightning inside of Walmart rather than get abducted by human traffickers in the store, Lieutenant James Gresham, Stephenville Police Department said. “Our idea of being a random victim of crime is what drives a lot of our fear of crime.” 

   James Gresham, Lieutenant of Stephenville Police Department says that the biggest threat of human trafficking/sex trafficking for teens here in Stephenville is through social media.

  “It doesn’t just randomly happen, it’s not like you’re walking down the street and they just take you–that’s kidnapping. Sex trafficking begins more through relationships,” said Lieutenant Gresham.

Maya Saldivar

   Lieutenant Gresham wants to set the record straight about human trafficking in Stephenville and calm people’s fears.

   “We really don’t have much of the sex type of human trafficking here in Stephenville except for the teens that get lured in by sex traffickers on social media sites. There has only been one or two cases in the past several years. That type of trafficking mainly goes on in the bigger cities and suburbs.” 

   There are two different types of traffickers. The first type is based off of people who actually get the kids involved and sell them to others to make a profit, and another type would be the business leaders who make a profit off of the people who do the dirty work. There’s two different types of victims as well, the most common would be children or teens because they are less aware of danger, and easier to manipulate. The other would be adults who have been trafficked, but it’s less likely because they are more aware of danger and less vulnerable to manipulation.

   “It all comes down to finances. All the traffickers want is power over you and control,” said Gresham. “ Women have even been locked in houses and forced to prostitute themselves to men all day.” 

   Sex trafficking targets juveniles, runaways, kids and teens in foster care, or kids with bad home lives. The traffickers lure a teen in by saying they can get him/her whatever he/she wants or needs.  Then slowly cuts a teen off parents and friends. They make you believe you’re not loved or welcomed anywhere else, so a teen feels as if he/she is trapped with them.

   “Young women mainly think it’s going to be a better life for them, but it turns out that in reality everything you do just creates a profit for them,” said Gresham

   Another common type is labor trafficking, which is basically a modern day version of slavery. Immigrants are forced to work for very low or no income. They’re given things they need or want for free, as long as they continue working, which eventually leads to them becoming trapped by debt bondage and fraud. This is much more common than people think.

    “If you got a baseball player to stand in the middle of the street and throw a ball, he’s most likely to hit a house that’s had some kind of involvement with labor trafficking,” Said Gresham.

   Traffickers target immigrants because immigrants are afraid of being deported and won’t tell anyone. 

  “They don’t want to go to the cops because they don’t want to get in trouble themselves, but they need to know by them not telling us it can lead to bigger problems,” said Gresham.

   The main strategy traffickers use to trap their ’employees’ is debt bondage. Debt bondage is where their boss provides them with things like a car, house, and multiple other things. So, the victims feel like they can’t leave, or they’ll lose everything they have. 

   “These people get so deep into this that their life depends on it. The traffickers supply their meals, gas, house payments and even repairs. They literally cannot leave without losing everything they have,” said Gresham

   According to the most recent data from the FBI, the total crime rate In Stephenville is 434 reported crimes and 2,028 total crimes per 100,000 people, which is 21.04% below the national average. 

   “There has only been one or two cases of human trafficking here in Stephenville in the past several years,” said Gresham. “The community needs to be educated about the dangers of sex traffickers using social media to lure teens into their trap.That is one way parents can help protect their children.”

(Names have been changed to protect the innocent.)