A new law enforcement agency is growing quietly in Texas. While it’s likely that few people see the motives behind this change as cause for alarm, it seems redundant, and therefore an unnecessary draw on tax funds that already are being fought over.
The Attorney General’s office frequently gains a new department with police authority, to deal with specific crimes. Past legislative sessions have given the attorney general power to set up new departments and form task forces to deal with colonia development, identity theft and notary fraud along the border, among other issues.
Texas State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, has pre-filed Senate Bill 89 for the upcoming legislative session to create a new branch of state bureaucracy to deal with human trafficking, specifically the crime of forcing people into the sex trade.
“It is vile,” Van de Putte said at a Monday news conference in Austin that included Attorney General Greg Abbott. “It is almost unthinkable what happens to these victims.”
Abbott focused on women and children forced into the sex trade. He likened it to slavery, and said the problem is getting worse each year. SB 89 addresses his desire to have the authority to prosecute such crimes. The bill also creates offices within the attorney general’s department to track, research and investigate reports of human trafficking and sex crimes.
To be sure, such crimes are horrific. That is why they already are addressed in current state and federal law.
The Texas Penal Code already has provisions for kidnapping, unlawful restraint, unlawful transport and compelling prostitution.
Federal civil rights laws also deal with such matters.
Thus, local police and sheriff’s departments, the Texas Department of Public Safety and U.S. Justice Department already investigate and prosecute such crimes. They do so through the state and federal district courts, which already exist to ensure the due process and open litigation that our criminal system mandates.
Adding another office, with its obvious need for a share of limited tax resources, to deal with these crimes deserves to be questioned. Instead of creating new departments, with their need for new offices, new personnel and new expenses, it seems more efficient to instead provide more support to existing agencies that already deal with these matters.
Doing whatever is possible to reduce and even eliminate forced and coerced labor and prostitution is a laudable goal. It seems, however, that the best way to address the problem would be to invest our limited resources in enforcement rather than bureaucracy.