AG Paxton Announces New Agency Human Trafficking Unit
AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton today held a press conference to announce a new unit within the Texas Attorney General’s Office dedicated to combating human trafficking. This new unit will be headed by Deputy Criminal Chief Kirsta Leeburg Melton, an experienced prosecutor with an extensive background in combating human trafficking in Texas. The Human Trafficking and Transnational Organized Crime (HTTOC) section of the Texas Attorney General’s office will help to fight back against the horrific crime of human trafficking through investigations, prosecutions, training and raising awareness.
“Criminals steal many things from their victims, such as money, belongings and their sense of safety and well-being; but human trafficking is, simply put, the theft of a person’s very soul,” said Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.“While trafficking is often associated with people from other countries, the victims of trafficking can and do come from anywhere, including right here in Texas.
“Fortunately, through this new unit and through recent changes to the law, Texas is in a great position to make headway in the fight against trafficking, and we will take the fight to the doorstep of traffickers at every opportunity.”
The attorney general was joined at the press conference by state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, state Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., and Deputy Criminal Chief Kirsta Leeburg Melton of the HTTOC Unit.
“Every life is worth the fight,” said Melton. “No one is immune to the tragedy where children and adults are forced into modern day slavery. The fundamental goal of our new unit is to see that Texas becomes and remains a place where human life is not for sale.”
Sadly, Texas is at the heart of human trafficking in the United States. Houston has the highest number of trafficking victims in the nation, and Texas is the second highest in the nation for number of calls to the National Human Trafficking Resources Center.
The unit will provide the state with a new weapon in the fight against human trafficking, transnational gangs and organized crime syndicates that threaten the fundamental liberties of the people of Texas. This is even more critical since where you find those who are willing to profit from the buying and selling of human life, you find criminal networks who are equally as willing to deal in drugs, violence, arms dealing and smuggling. The unit will initially consist of five investigators, three lawyers, a forensic accountant and a victims’ advocate, dedicated to the rescue of victims and the investigation of criminal human trafficking across the state.
To learn more about human trafficking and the work of the Texas Attorney General’s Office, please visit:https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/cj/human-trafficking.
Melton is the Deputy Criminal Chief of the Human Trafficking and Transnational/Organized Crime Unit of the Office of the Texas Attorney General. From 2000-2014 she prosecuted in the Family Justice Unit of the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office combating human trafficking, the physical and sexual abuse of children and family violence, and in 2012 helped establish and lead the Bexar County DA’s Human Trafficking Unit. Melton prosecuted the first five trafficking cases arising in Bexar County. In addition Melton chaired the Alamo Area Coalition against Trafficking, a regional multi-disciplinary group of law enforcement, non-profits, government agencies, business people, and academics assembled to coordinate the fight against human trafficking. Melton has trained more than 5000 people across the state on human trafficking and has testified on multiple occasions before the Texas legislature on trafficking related issues.
Melton graduated from Cornell University in 1993. She then went on to obtain her law degree and her Master’s in Public Affairs from the University of Texas in 1998. In addition to prosecuting, she is one of the founding members of Truckers against Trafficking, a nation-wide campaign dedicated to educating, empowering and mobilizing the trucking industry in the fight against human trafficking.
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