Texas lawmakers delivered legislation to the governor’s desk that strengthens state and local officials’ authority to investigate, prosecute, and prevent child sex trafficking—a multibillion-dollar racket that is one of the fastest-growing organized crime activities in the United States.

In 2016, an estimated 79,000 minors were victims of sex trafficking in Texas.

Senate Bill 1527 by State Sen. Joan Huffman (R–Houston), which includes several provisions to crack down on criminals who sexually exploit children, was sent to Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday.

SB 1527 increases penalties for certain sex trafficking and child pornography crimes, allows more evidence to be considered during prosecutions, and adds protections for trafficking victims.

Pedophiles’ demand for sex with children has resulted in child sex trafficking accounting for more than half of criminal human trafficking cases in the United States.

Porn users also create constant demand for content featuring sexually exploited children.

Another provision of SB 1527 adds an anti-grooming offense to state law, making it a third-degree felony.

Grooming refers to an act of deliberately establishing a connection with a child in an attempt to subject them to sexual abuse or human trafficking.

Child grooming is already a federal crime. The state offense allows state and local law enforcement to arrest traffickers for grooming activities before trafficking occurs.

More than half of sex trafficking victims are recruited online.

Traffickers also groom victims by showing them pornography to desensitize them to the sex acts they will be forced to perform.

Both boys and girls are sold for sex, and a majority of victims are trafficked by someone they know.

SB 1527 codifies legislative recommendations from the state’s Human Trafficking Prevention Task Force.

The governor has 10 days to sign or veto the legislation before it automatically becomes law.

Erin Anderson

Erin Anderson is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard, reporting on state and local issues, events, and government actions that impact people in communities throughout Texas and the DFW Metroplex. A native Texan, Erin grew up in the Houston area and now lives in Collin County.