HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Whether you want to believe it or not, human trafficking occurs in Alabama. Lawmakers are working to combat this problem by passing a series of bills and resolutions in the legislature.
There have been 36 human trafficking cases reported in Alabama so far this year, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
Tracey Gibson is the executive director of the Huntsville based nonprofit Fresh Start Life Recovery. She works with human trafficking victims every day.
"We are seeing an increasing amount of human trafficking," Gibson said.
At a press conference in Montgomery Tuesday, lawmakers talked about three bills aimed at combating human trafficking.
"It affects those between the ages of 11 and 14 the most," said Senator Cam Ward (R-Alabaster).
BH261 would require all new commercial driver licensees to undergo industry-specific human trafficking training.
Another, HB264, cracks down on soliciting a prostitute.
"The bill we're working on together says we can actually publish the photos of those who solicit or engage in that practice as opposed to the entire focus has always been on the individual victim," Ward said.
And the third, HB262 requires certain businesses to display human trafficking posters.
"Which could have potentially given victims an easier way to obtain help," said Senator Linda Coleman-Madison (D-Birmingham).
Lawmakers have also introduced resolutions. The first resolution encourages ALEA to continue developing the curriculum to make sure that every officer in the state is trained about human trafficking.
The second resolution creates the Alabama Healthcare Human Trafficking Training Program Commission, which is tasked with developing a training module for all healthcare related employees to readily identify and provide trauma-centered care for human trafficking victims.
"I think their efforts are tremendous." Gibson says the bill sponsors have her support and the effort is increasing awareness "Out of the awareness comes the identification of how many people have actually been trafficked, how many people have lost their lives, and then more people more legislative comes in into play."
She hopes to continue to see support from the legislature in the years to come, especially when it comes to regulating transitional housing for human trafficking victims and creating plans to offer them healthcare specific to their needs.
According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, sex trafficking is the most common form of human trafficking in Alabama. Labor trafficking is a distant second.