FLORENCE, Ala. — It can happen anywhere, it can happen to anyone, and the Florence Police Department said knowing the warning signs can prevent someone from becoming a victim of human trafficking.
North Alabama is only about two to three hours away from several major metropolitan areas where human trafficking is becoming frighteningly common.
Florence Police Sgt. Greg Cobb said this is one reason why the public needs to remain vigilant. He spoke Thursday at the Residence Inn hotel in Florence, teaching its staff how to identify signs of human trafficking.
"Told them what to look for, things to be aware of," said Sgt. Cobb. "Don't be afraid to call us; we'll be diplomatic about approaching somebody and questioning them, but we do want everyone to be aware of some of the signs."
Sgt. Cobb said human trafficking takes on many forms, including sex and labor, and the ages of victims can vary from children to adults.
Some signs to know include groups of children with only one supervising adult, displays of shyness, and seemingly rehearsed behavior in social settings. He adds that people shouldn't be afraid to speak up if something looks suspicious.
"I would rather somebody call us and us check on it than us to let something go by and a family member gets lost or taken," said Sgt. Cobb.
When someone may be in danger, Sgt. Cobb said it's better to be safe than sorry.
If you suspect someone may be a victim of human trafficking, you're asked to call 911 for emergencies or the Florence Police Department at (256) 760-6500. You can also connect with them on Facebook. There is also a 24-hour human trafficking tip line at (888) 373-7888.