By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Friday, January 31, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange (R) spoke to the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force meeting held at the First Baptist Church of Montgomery.
Rep. Jack Williams (R-Alabama) who heads the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force introduced Alabama’s State Attorney General and chief law enforcement officer Luther Strange.
Strange said that of the growing human trafficking problem, “This is a problem that most people do not even want to acknowledge that exists, much less talk about.”
Human Trafficking is the most common form of modern day slavery worldwide and is a growing problem in the United States. According to information from the task force’s web site, it is estimated that 300,000 American youth are vulnerable to becoming sex trafficking victims. Pimps target runaways, homeless, and abused and/or neglected children. Child sex trafficking is estimated to be a growing $9.8 billion industry in the US.
According to the website, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 defines human trafficking as labor trafficking and sex trafficking. Traffickers gain complete control of their victims through coercion, force, or fraud. Although both types of trafficking occur, sex trafficking is the most prevalent form in the United States.
According to information on the task force’s website, there are an estimated 27 million slaves living in the world today……believed to be more now than at any time in the history of the world and has recently surpassed the illegal weapons trade as the number two criminal enterprise (behind illegal drugs) globally.
AG Strange said, “We have 85 lawyers who work full-time,” for the attorney general’s office. Strange told the audience (filled with law enforcement members) that his office is committed to combating human trafficking in Alabama. Strange said that nobody comes into the criminal justice system voluntarily and that with trafficking it is important that law enforcement recognizes that in many cases the woman is the victim and not the criminal.
AG Strange praised the WellHouse in Birmingham. It is a faith based non-profit agency that rescues women from sexual exploitation and human trafficking. The WellHouse was founded by Tajuan McCarty who also addressed the Alabama Human Trafficking Summit.
AG Strange said of the WellHouse, “I have toured that and it is a very sobering experience. It is great that we have a facility like that here in Alabama.”
Most girls who enter the world of prostitution enter between the ages of 11 and 15, though trafficking victims can be even younger.
AG Strange also praised the work that the Huntsville-Madison County Human Trafficking Task Force has done.
Strange said, “Child advocacy centers have been a top priority of mine.”
Alabama has had a human trafficking law since 2010. AG Strange said, “That legislation has led to many arrests and convictions and we are just getting started.”
State Representative Jack Williams will introduce a Safe Harbor Act during the upcoming legislative session to ensure that children caught up in human trafficking are recognized as victims not criminals.
Strange emphasized that successful trafficking investigations require teamwork between law enforcement agencies as traffickers and their victims often move from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and even across state lines frequently.
AG Strange said, “We have a law enforcement summit every year.” 750 law enforcement officers come to Montgomery to get re-certified. “This year we talked about trafficking. Who is the victim is easy to overlook.”
Strange aid that at the national level human trafficking is the number one concerns of attorney’s generals. States have to work together because in a couple of hours you can be in Georgia, Mississippi or Florida. Prosecutors and law enforcement need to work nationally.
Luther Strange was re-elected to a second term as Alabama’s Attorney General last year.