Politicians are exaggerating and lying about sex trafficking

Sex Trafficking Politicians

Politicians are lying, exaggerating – making up false stories about sex trafficking

According to the United States Politicians: In city of Houston, Texas alone, about 300,000 sex trafficking cases are prosecuted each year.

The number is such obvious nonsense that anyone who gave it any serious thought would decry it. (Amy Alkon and Walter Olson got there before me.) But the Dallas Morning News blithely published it as fact.

(Dallas Morning News Editorial: Cracking down on sex traffickers). [Update: The DMN corrected its error.]

In Harris County, according to Texas Office of Court Administration statistics2,65036,862 new felony cases were filed and 5,819 68,142 new misdemeanor cases were filed in 2012.1 So the total of all new cases filed in Harris County is nowhere near the 300,000 sex trafficking cases asserted by the Dallas Morning News.

According to the Harris County District Clerk’s website, there hasn’t been a prosecution for sex trafficking in Houston since 2010. But when people say “sex trafficking,” they may mean “compelling prostitution.” There have been twocompelling-prostitution cases filed in Harris County this year.

Not 300,000. Two.

There are federal prosecutions as well. Statistics are not as handy,2 but I have a feel for what’s going on in the federal courthouse, and the DOJ loves putting out press releases. The number of people prosecuted for sex trafficking in the Southern District of Texas each year is in the double digits.

Here’s where I think the wide-eyed nincompoops at the Dallas Morning News got their number:

Poe, a Republican from Humble, said sex trafficking rings prey on the large number of immigrant women and girls living in the Houston area and across Texas, accounting for a disproportionate share of the estimated 300,000 sex trafficking cases prosecuted each year.

(Texas on the Potomac.)

Nobody seems to know where that 300,000 number comes from. (Maggie McNeill suggests a plausible genesis here and here.) It’s a couple of orders of magnitude less obviously wrong than the same number attributed to Houston, but still glaringly obviously wrong—if the wrongness of “300,000 sex-trafficking cases in Houston” were equivalent to getting smacked upside the head with a 2X4, “300,000 sex-trafficking cases in the United States” would be getting poked in the arm with a fork.

The population of the United states is 314 million, give or take. The population of Texas is 26 million, give or take. For Texas to have a “disproportionate share of the estimated 300,000 sex trafficking cases prosecuted each year,” Texas would have to have more than 24,8403 sex trafficking prosecutions every year.

In 2010, there were 91,047 people prosecuted in federal court. All told. Nationwide. If that number is still about right (and I suspect that federal prosecutions have dropped, rather than increasing, since 2010, given Congress’s laudable inability to keep the government running), even if federal prosecutors were prosecutingnothing but sex trafficking offenses4, for there to be 300,000 sex trafficking cases prosecuted nationwide each year state courts would have to prosecute 210,000 such cases. For Texas’s share of these 210,000 prosecutions to be “disproportionate” Texas would have to prosecute 17,389 sex-trafficking cases each year.

In Texas, statewide, there were 15,629 203,471 criminal cases of all types filed last year in district court;5 of these, 2,723 were misdemeanors and 45,163 were felonies not classified into categories that are recognizably not sex trafficking (murder, theft, etc.).

In Texas, statewide, there were 32,991 415,436 misdemeanor cases filed in 2012 in county court; of these, 116,307 were not classified into categories that are recognizably not sex trafficking (DWI, drug offenses, etc.)

So even if every crime charged in Texas that was not classified as something recognizably not sex trafficking were a sex trafficking crime,6 there would only have been 161,470 sex-trafficking cases filed last year in Texas—nowhere near the 300,000 promoted by the DMN.

Texas is less populous than California, but it has the world’s longest stretch of border between a first-world country and a third-world country. Texas’s economy is humming along while California’s is faltering. It would surprise me if Texas didn’t have more sex-trafficking cases than its population alone dictated.

But 300,000? Utter and complete nonsense.

  1. Those numbers seem low to me, given the crowds in the courthouse lobbies but I think the source can be trusted.My search-fu was defective. 
  2. The bureau of justice statistics is eight years behind
  3. Give or take. 
  4. A ludicrous proposition—Alkon has BJS statistics:

    Federally funded human trafficking task forcesopened 2,515 suspected incidents of human trafficking for investigation between January 2008 and June 2010.

    Most suspected incidents of human trafficking were classified as sex trafficking (82%)…

  5. All but 216 were felonies. 
  6. A ludicrous proposition. 

By Mark Bennett
Article Link:

The following is from Techdirt:

Editorials written in support of legislation are prone to conjuring up hysterical situations/numbers in order to drive the point home. You can’t motivate the average reader if there’s no hook. But the editorial writer should at least make sure the numbers being used don’t immediately prompt incredulous laughter from any reader with a couple of functioning brain cells. The editorial board for the Dallas Morning News recently issued a regrettable opinion piece supporting the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which was introduced last week. In the writer’s hurry to portray human trafficking as a terrible blight on humanity, credibility went right out the window.

Two Texas Republicans, Sen. John Cornyn and Rep. Ted Poe of the Houston area, are co-sponsoring a bill that would impose stiff penalties on these adult victimizers of up to life in prison. The Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, which has bipartisan support in both houses, would supplement an existing law that focuses primarily on punishing sex-trafficking organizations abroad. Poe and Cornyn estimate that one-quarter of U.S. sex-trafficking victims have Texas roots. Poe says our state’s proximity to Mexico and high immigrant population give the state a particularly high profile. In Houston alone, about 300,000 sex trafficking cases are prosecuted each year. Tighter border controls and reduced profit margins from the drug trade are pushing organized crime groups to turn increasingly to sex trafficking, law enforcers say.

That ridiculous figure, which posits that Houston prosecutes nearly 900 sex traffickers a day (if working 365 days a year), has since been removed by the editorial squad at Dallas Morning News. The update line notes that “inaccurate numbers” had been used and have since been deleted. (The original version can be found here towards the middle of the page.) This amazing claim was completely debunked by Houston criminal defense attorney Mark Bennett, who broke down actual prosecution stats and the possible rationale behind the Dallas News’ decision to run with the 300,000/year claim.

Nobody seems to know where that 300,000 num­ber comes from. (Mag­gie McNeill sug­gests a plau­si­ble gen­e­sis here and here.) It’s a cou­ple of orders of mag­ni­tude less obvi­ously wrong than the same num­ber attrib­uted to Hous­ton, but still glar­ingly obvi­ously wrong—if the wrong­ness of “300,000 sex-trafficking cases in Hous­ton” were equiv­a­lent to get­ting smacked upside the head with a 2X4, “300,000 sex-trafficking cases in the United States” would be get­ting poked in the arm with a fork.

That’s the hype. Here are the numbers.

In Har­ris County, accord­ing to Texas Office of Court Admin­is­tra­tion sta­tis­tics, 36,862 new felony cases were filed and 68,142 new mis­de­meanor cases were filed in 2012. So the total of all new cases filed in Har­ris County is nowhere near the 300,000 sex traf­fick­ing cases asserted by the Dallas Morn­ing News.

Bennett speculates the DMN may have just misquoted Rep. Ted Poe, one of the sponsors of the bill.

Poe, a Repub­li­can from Hum­ble, said sex traf­fick­ing rings prey on the large num­ber of immi­grant women and girls liv­ing in the Hous­ton area and across Texas, account­ing for a dis­pro­por­tion­ate share of the esti­mated 300,000 sex traf­fick­ing cases pros­e­cuted each year.

As Bennett points out, there aren’t even 300,000 federal prosecutions nationwide per year. 2010’s report shows only 91,047 people being prosecuted in federal courts, so even Poe’s nationwide claim is demonstrably false. Even more damning are these numbers.

Federally funded human trafficking task forces opened 2,515 suspected incidents of human trafficking for investigation between January 2008 and June 2010.

Now, it’s bad enough that one of the bill’s sponsors would throw out an unresearched “statistic” like this while pushing legislation. But that’s somewhat expected from our politicians, especially when they’ve got a horse in the race. But it’s even worse when a journalistic entity not only takes this stat at face value, but makes it comically worse by severely reducing its scope from national to local. Mistakes will be made occasionally. I understand that. But this one should never have made it past the first round of editing. Certainly Rep. Poe is partially to blame for this, but the paper’s editorial team should know that presenting patently untrue claims as fact severely weakens its stance on the issue. Of course, coming out in favor of punishing sex traffickers is hardly a controversial stance, so it’s likely the editorial didn’t receive a thorough vetting before publication. But letting this slip through compromises the paper’s credibility and accepting Rep. Poe’s “statistics” as fact indicates DMN is in possession of a faulty BS-detector, something no serious journalistic entity should ever let fall into disrepair.

 By Tim Cushing (Techdirt)
This entry was posted in attorney general, Colorado, Dallas, Dallas Morning News, Denver, dissertation, essays, Greg Abbott, Houston, Human Trafficking, John Cornyn, Law, Myths, proposition35, research, research paper, sex, Sex Slavery, Sex Tourism, Sex Trafficking, Sex Workers, statistics, Ted Poe, Texas, THE TRUTH ABOUT SEX TRAFFICKING, SEX SLAVERY, PROSTITUTION, SEX WORKERS, HUMAN TRAFFICKING, FORCED PAID SEX, SEX SLAVES, HOOKERS, PIMPS, PIMPING, BROTHELS, JOHNS, SEX FOR MONEY, CALL GIRLS, SEX WORK,, The truth in the Media, thesis, united states of America, USA, victims and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Politicians are exaggerating and lying about sex trafficking

  1. Boston says:

    I believe that the “media lace curtain” mixed with the now American law enforcement “manufactured statistics Alliances”, are going to get so perverse that hetero-relationships in the US will become a legal liability for guys. Many mens rights activists are saying we are already there!!

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