Recognize the signs of human trafficking - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Recognize the signs of human trafficking

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It's called the invisible crime. This community is not exempt from human sex trafficking. But bringing it into the light is not easy.

Professionals in law enforcement, medicine, social work have to know what they're looking for and how to handle the victims.

I attended a work shop that didn't pull any punches. Presenters laid out the facts on sex trafficking, labor trafficking and domestic servitude. The aim is to make sure the right people are trained to recognize the signs and take action.

"One way the traffickers will take advantage of victims is by moving them from town to town,"

Everyone in the room listened intently to Audrey Roofeh. She talked about the signs of human trafficking.

Jeanne Jackson is president and CEO of the Women's Fund of Greater Birmingham,  the host organization for today's training. Jackson says Alabama is not immune to the problem.

"We know that sex trafficking unfortunately has come to Alabama and what we're trying to do is inform first responders, hospital employees, law enforcement people," said Jackson.

In Alabama, an estimated 85 percent of runaway children are approached to engage in the sex industry  within 24 hours of being on the streets.

"We want them to be able to see the girl as a victim, not as a prostitute, not as someone who is promiscuous," said Jackson.

So how do you spot a victim of sex or labor trafficking?

Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

Is the person in poor physical health? Does she lack health care?

What about control?

The victims of trafficking  don't have access to their own money, identification or financial records.

How are the living conditions? Crowded or dirty?

Once a problem is noted law enforcement must move quickly. Calhoun County deputy Chris Cofield says deputies know time is of the essence.

"I've seen some things that don't add up that don't look right. In our area I think there are some people who are forced into servitude," said Cofield.  

Jackson says the real victory is putting the offenders behind bars.

"What we're trying to do is make it more visible and ultimately get a prosecution," she said.

Speaking of prosecution, I spoke with attorney Mary Lynn Bates,  who was involved with  getting House Bill 432 passed, Alabama's anti-human trafficking law.

For more information on human trafficking visit polarisproject.org and womensfundbirmingham.org.

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