HOUSTON – Convenience stores are at the heart of their communities, and often can be of enormous help in stopping crime in its tracks. Nita Belles, author and executive director of In Our Backyard, experienced firsthand how convenience stores connect with their community.
Belles remembered her years behind the counter of a small grocery store: “We knew our customers, we cared about them and had daily interactions with them. We knew their daily victories and struggles and had trusted relationships with them.”
When she started working to combat traffickers, she considered convenience stores as an ideal place to start. Traffickers exhibit excessive control over their victims, and a public bathroom may be the only place that a trafficked individual is left alone. It’s been found to be the safest place for a victim to reach out for help.
With support from the Greater Houston Retailers Cooperative Association, Inc. (GHRA), Convenience Stores Against Trafficking (CSAT) launched its anti-trafficking campaign during the week leading up to the Super Bowl. More than 1,900 c-stores received training to spot the signs of human trafficking and posted Freedom Stickers with the hotline number in their restrooms. GHRA is a leading cooperative organization supporting the independently-owned and operated convenience stores in the Greater Houston area.
Traffickers count on silence to continue to profit off the sale of innocent children, women and men. Armed with a basic understanding of trafficking and how to report it, convenience stores like the members of GHRA can become everyday heroes in this fight.
For ways you can help stop human traffickers, email Juliana Williams, program manager, at email@example.com.