VESTAVIA HILLS, Ala. (WIAT) — During Monday night’s city council meeting, Vestavia Hills laid groundwork to become the first “trafficking free zone” city in the state. This means all city employees, including first responders, will undergo human trafficking training.
The program is an initiative of the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking. Their goal is for all Jefferson County cities to join the program before the World Games in 2021. That deadline is no coincidence.
Vestavia Hills Mayor Ashley Curry said human traffickers are opportunists. With such a large event coming to the area, the entire metropolitan area can expect to see an increase in human trafficking.
“They’ll actually move their victims on a circuit,” said Jordan Giddens with the Child Trafficking Solutions Project. “So when we’re looking at the world games coming here, Birmingham and Alabama have never hosted an international sporting event to that degree.”
Mayor Curry says oftentimes, people don’t realize how prevalent human trafficking is in our own communities.
“As recently as July of this year, they made some arrest at area hotels. Not just Vestavia, but in Pelham and Homewood as well,” said Curry.
The interstates that run through the Magic City are a corridor for crime.
“40% of trafficking that happens in the U.S. happens in the southeast. Birmingham is in the apex and epicenter of two of the nation’s largest sex superhighways: I-20 and I-65,” Giddens said.
The mayor hoped that taking steps to educate the community on human trafficking will make a difference, and encourage neighboring cities to do the same.
“Well I would hope that we could set an example of raising awareness, and then if the other cities see what we’re doing, maybe they’ll follow suit.”
Cities that decide to participate in the program do not incur any costs. The Children’s Policy Council said other large cities in the Birmingham metro area have made verbal commitments to join.