Wed, Jan. 27, 2016
2:00 – 3:00 pm
Hazel B. Kerper Courtroom
Human trafficking is one of the most lucrative criminal enterprise nationwide, second only to drugs, and Houston is a hub of activity in sexual exploitation, with domestic and international victims that include children and adults, men and women.
Kyle Matheson (‘96, BS-CJ) is a Captain for the Criminal Investigations Division (CID) in Region II for the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). Capt. Matheson’s area of responsibility covers Houston, Bryan and Lufkin, including cases involving drugs, gangs and special investigations, such as auto and cargo theft and fraud, for a 17-county area in Southeast Texas. About 18 months ago, CID added a Human Trafficking Unit, which works hand-in-hand with other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and the Houston Police Department, to identify, investigate, disrupt, and dismantle sex trafficking organizations.
Human trafficking is a $1 billion industry in the U.S. and takes many forms in Houston, with operations run by organized crime groups, gangs and independent traffickers. Many human trafficking victims come across the Mexican border and are forced to work in prostitution in cantinas throughout the area. Asian victims work many of the massage parlors and spas, while independent traffickers bring women into town for business expos or sporting events. Even children are forced into the life of prostitution on the streets or through child pornography, and the unit works with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to identify minors and arrest those who abuse them.
One of the most difficult issues in human trafficking is enlisting cooperation from victims. Many are afraid to talk, fearing for their lives. Victims often have troubled pasts and have no great desire to cooperate with police, but they are the key link to getting to the traffickers, Matheson said.
Drugs and human trafficking are frequently intermingled, with many drug dealers opting for the sex trade because they believe they can make as much or more money and have less risk of arrest because of the lack of cooperation by victims.
Capt. Matheson has worked for DPS for 19 years. After spending five years in Highway Patrol in the Conroe office, Matheson was promoted to the Criminal Investigation Unit, where he made his way up the ladder working in several offices across the state. He said that Sam Houston State University gave him a solid foundation for his career, and the school has a strong reputation in law enforcement as one of the top programs in the country.
Capt. Matheson said that while every law enforcement agency has a role in fighting crime, it is important that students understand their personal goals to determine what career path fits their needs.