"Bissonnet Track" Now "Bissonnet Corridor"? Former Open-Air Trafficking Hub Getting a Makeover

"Bissonnet Track" Now "Bissonnet Corridor"? Former Open-Air Trafficking Hub Getting a Makeover

Close to sunset, teens played soccer and kids romped on the playground in Forum Park next to Best Elementary, in a neighborhood where open-air sex trafficking used to happen in broad daylight.

District J Council Member Edward Pollard said a Best third grader wrote a letter to him about seeing prostitutes every day on her way to school. “Do you care?” she asked.

Now, city and county officials say they’ve dramatically reduced the trafficking by closing streets at night, first with temporary barricades, then with permanent swing gates.

Pollard has started calling the infamous “Bissonnet Track” the “Bissonnet Corridor” instead, saying the area has transformed.

Are these bold claims true?

In a well-publicized press conference, HPD Westside Division Commander Reece Hardy said that violent crime in the area had reduced by 22% in 2023 as compared to 2022. City and county officials invited Remi Ellison, owner of WOW African Hair Braiding, to speak, and she praised the police efforts: "My clients can now appreciate the tranquility of our peaceful neighborhood." And David Peters, a local realtor on the board of the Southwest Management District, told me that he’s excited about new business developments coming to the area.

But as a journalist, I can’t just accept the official story. So I decided to investigate in the most common-sense way possible: asking my girlfriend on a date.

When I reported on the police blockade in June 2023, I took her to dinner at a restaurant along the Track. There’s nothing more romantic than watching police officers set up barricades together. Except maybe watching police officers drive around and close yellow metal gates covered with reflective tape. So we decided to return.

First, we drove most of the way around the “Track” so I could point out the gate locations. Except for car traffic and a few regular pedestrians, the streets were empty.

The Bissonnet Corridor. The approximate gate locations are marked in red. Image credit: Google Maps. Gate location credit: Tyess Korsmo

When we pulled up to long, narrow Forum Park around 7:30 PM, several young men and women faced off on the enclosed mini soccer field, two or three families played on the playground, and a little boy spiked a white volleyball on the basketball court, then passed it to his dad.

We ate at one of the picnic tables. It was quiet except for the typical noise of children. Most people didn’t leave until close to half an hour after sunset.

We started driving around Bissonnet and side streets like Plainfield St, Centre Parkway, Forum Park Dr, and even back alleyways. We made it west all the way to Kirkwood.

Only on one side street did we spot one woman who looked the part. In a green shirt and ultra-short black shorts, she paced back and forth on a corner near some apartments. Overall, the area was quiet.

But we did spot signs of transformation on the former "Track."

When we visited last June, Finger Licking Restaurant had moved to the other side of Centre Parkway, and its grungy old building sat abandoned.

Now, the old spot has been bulldozed and the dirt lot is fenced off, marked by a sign that advertises a Shell gas station, taqueria, and car wash coming soon. A storefront in the shopping mall across the street also appears to be under construction.

Last year, Higher Dimension Church’s “D Spot” community center sat abandoned on Bissonnet, surrounded by knee-high grass. Now, it’s become a branch of Etoile Academy, a Sharpstown-area charter school with two campuses. The exterior looks cleaner, and the grass is much better manicured.

The midsection of the strip mall housing Redimidos de Jehova Casa de Misericordia was still boarded up, but a Wednesday night church service was happening at one end of the building, and the other end—vacant last June—has been converted to the “K&J Glamour Fashion Boutique.”

Local restaurants seemed to be doing alright for 8:45 PM on a Wednesday. Afrikiko had seven vehicles parked out front, and Casa Honduras had four.

Overall, most of the area's businesses and storefront Iglesias were still there.

There were still some signs of old blight, like an empty Washington Mutual tower with the “ual” panel missing and the “ut” panel flapping in the wind.

But it seemed like local property owners, developers, and entrepreneurs have been slowly putting more money into the area.

Not to mention that the big orange signs on Centre Parkway—warning that soliciting a prostitute is a felony under Texas law—were gone. HPD and Council Member Pollard must be confident.

But HPD is still serious about closing the gates every night. They came on time, around 10:00 PM.

My only worry comes from an old adage: "Out of sight, out of mind." Don't get me wrong—it's good that little girls and boys don't have to see prostitutes propositioning buyers on their way to elementary school.

But now that human trafficking isn't so blatantly visible in our area, will we forget that it exists?

A 2017 report by the Polaris Project identified 25 forms of human trafficking in the United States. "Open-air solicitation" on "tracks" or "strolls" like Bissonnet is the most visible form, but not the most common.

At the press conference, Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner Lesley Briones said the gates are "a small step, an important step, in the right direction, but we know this a severe, critical problem that our region unfortunately faces."

She also had a message for victims of trafficking: "We are here to support you."

Let's not let her forget those words.

Read below to see what the manager of Finger Licking and the owner of Kim Cafe said about the changes to the Bissonnet Track this January.

Harris County Building Gates to Keep Bissonnet Track Closed
Update: As of 2/9/24, swing gates have been installed in all six locations, and the upright posts have been painted white. Visit the infamous “Bissonnet Track” today, and you wouldn’t guess that just nine months ago, it was a hub for open-air prostitution—day and night. On


Tyess Korsmo, editor-in-chief
A North Dakota farm boy, Tyess moved to Sharpstown in 2019 to earn his Master of Liberal Arts at Houston Christian University (formerly Houston Baptist), where he now teaches English and history. He also teaches English for the Heart of Texas Foundation College of Ministry, located in a maximum-security prison.

Assistant Reporter

Katlyn McGrath