Helping victims of human trafficking in Alabama

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Nine months after its creation, the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force sponsored its first event.

On Friday, the mayors of Huntsville, Madison, Hoover, Northport, Birmingham, Montgomery, Mobile and Tuscaloosa were asked to sign proclamations, recognizing January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month and Friday, January 9th, as Alabama Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

Task force members hope to encourage more Alabamians to educate themselves on the issue. According to the group’s website, ENDITAlabama.org:

  •  Human trafficking is the second largest criminal industry in the world (second only to drugs)
  • There are 27 million slaves worldwide
  • 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked through the US annually
  • The average victim is 12 years old
  • 80% of victims are female, although the number of males is rapidly rising

Pat McCay is the secretary of the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force. She says, contrary to what some may believe, most trafficking victims in North Alabama are not brought in from other countries. They are from right here in the Tennessee Valley, many of them children.

Runaways are especially vulnerable, McCay tells WHNT News 19. According to the task force, within the first 48 hours of leaving home, one-third of young runaways become the victims of human trafficking.

McCay also says Huntsville sits in the middle of some of the worst human trafficking sites in the country.

“Altanta was named last year as the hot spot for human trafficking in the US. What are we? Three-and-a-half hours away? Birmingham has a huge problem. Memphis, TN has a huge problem. Chattanooga and Nashville both have problems, big problems,” she concludes.

In addition to an awareness day, a public service campaign and ENDITAlabama.org, the task force will also hold a summit later this month. The summit is open to anyone who would like to attend. Online registration is now available.

In addition, the task force asks everyone to become familiar with the warning signs of human trafficking. You can find a list here.

If you or someone you know is caught up in human trafficking, help is available. To get help or report a tip, call (888) 373-7888. You can also text HELP to BeFree (233733).