On Friday, Madison Police along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested 25-year-old Michael Leon Taylor and four others from Memphis, Tennessee for sex trafficking involving a 15-year-old.
It's not a story you hear often in the Tennessee Valley, but sex and labor trafficking aren't isolated to other countries and the borders of the United States.
"When I speak about human trafficking in the South I get deer in the headlights looks," said Pat McCay, Chair of the Huntsville-Madison County Human Trafficking Task Force. "They think it doesn't happen here. Yes it does."
While incidents are still low in Alabama, McCay assures they are on the rise. Partially due to raised awareness and reporting of trafficking incident. But also because of location.
Alabama finds itself nestled between three states with some of the highest human trafficking rates in the nation: Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee.
The Tennessee Valley is also in the middle of a human trafficking triangle, as victims are taken to Birmingham, Atlanta, and Nashville.
"We have been a pass through state for quite a number of years, but we're seeing more and more reports of these kinds of incidents and crimes, and we want to stop them," said McCay.
Some red flags of human trafficking are:
- If a person seems to be under someone's control
- All contacts with family and friends are monitored
- Work excessive hours for little to no pay
- Live with several people in a cramped space
- Have generally poor health
- Signs of physical or sexual abuse
- Engage in prostitution or are sexually exploited in strip clubs
If you suspect a case of human trafficking or slavery you can call the National Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or local law enforcement.