Two Southeast Texans last week were arrested on charges related to trafficking minors — a crime local officials say has become more common in the last five years.
“This is becoming more prevalent in our area,” Beaumont Police Department Detective Charles Duchamp said. “This is something that we are having to work on. We want people to help and if they see something, say something.”
Officers arrested Darrell Jordan, 22, of Beaumont, and Paige Sidney, 19, of Groves, after responding to a call of a missing juvenile at 8:25 p.m. Thursday.
After responding to the Petro truck stop on Walden Road and Interstate 10, the complainant told officers the victim was in a nearby hotel.
“Officers went to several hotels in the area in an attempt to locate the victim and they eventually received information that the victim was seen at the Executive Inn,” a BPD news release said.
The statement said officers found Jordan and Sidney in a room with two juveniles that included the one reported missing.
Duchamp confirmed that both minors were 16-year-old girls.
“Evidence on scene indicated human trafficking and BPD Special Crimes Detectives responded to the scene,” the release said. “Jordan and Sidney were placed under arrest for trafficking of a person, and Jordan was additionally charged with felon in possession of a firearm.”
“It is something that has ballooned and exploded in this area,” Jefferson County District Attorney Bob Wortham said. “I think it is because we are off Interstate 10 between Houston and New Orleans. If you look at the map on where human trafficking is really conducted, we’re in a red section.”
The rise in trafficking cases since Wortham took office prompted him in 2016 to assign a prosecutor and secretary to handle only sex crimes. Since then, the unit has added two additional prosecutors and two secretaries to help handle to caseload.
“I would say that a murder case and any type of sexual exploitation case are the two worst types of cases in our office,” he said.
Wortham said cases prosecuted in Jefferson County span from across the country.
“We get these traffickers’ phones and trace them,” he said. “We have traced the cases all the way from Colorado to here and go all the way to South Carolina. We found out that when children are having problems at home and they become unhappy and leave, they put it on Facebook. The predators will seek them and find them.”
According to DoSomething.org, a non-profit geared at youth, more than half of the active criminal human trafficking cases in the U.S. in 2018 were sex trafficking cases involving children. In the same year, Texas was second only to California for calls made to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
“We ask people to call if you see someone at a motel with a young girl and she looks like she is depressed and in bad shape,” Wortham said. “At least give the police a chance to make a report and go check it out. We had a girl that was in a car going down the street. She was in the back seat and mouthed ‘help me’ to someone that was behind her. They didn’t know what was wrong, but they called police and took the license plate number. Low and behold, we caught them.”
Wortham did not have a theory as to why trafficking had grown in recent years, but added that it is a lucrative business.
Police transported both Jordan and Sidney to the Jefferson County Jail, where they were booked without bond.