Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

City Council recognizes Human Trafficking Awareness Month and honors local task force

CW / Shelby West

Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox recognized January’s status as Human Trafficking Awareness Month during Tuesday’s City Council session.  

Maddox said that Alabama established observance of the month in 2011 to coordinate with National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, which occurs Jan. 11. 

Maddox and the council condemned human trafficking and reaffirmed their commitment to the prevention and awareness of the crime but did not specify what further actions the council has planned. 

“Human trafficking is a public health issue and crime that affects individuals, families and communities across generations, exploiting the most vulnerable among us and weakening our collective well-being,” Maddox said.  

Human trafficking is a pressing issue throughout Alabama, which hosts the I-20 corridor, a stretch of road that’s notorious for sex trafficking activity. 

In observance of the month, the council then honored members of the West Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force, including Vice Unit Captain Phil Simpson of the Tuscaloosa Police Department, who commands the task force. 

Simpson said the task force is designed to directly combat human trafficking throughout West Alabama and advocate for its prevention through education initiatives. 

To that end, the task force instructs children about the dangers of human trafficking and provides free, specialized recognition training to businesses, schools and other organizations. 

“Children as young as 4 or 5 can get on their parents’ devices and go to these gaming sites and talk to another person whose sole goal is to victimize them,” Simpson said, adding that the internet is the most common way that individuals are trafficked, and the victims are often children. Children make up 27% of individuals who have been trafficked worldwide. 

Simpson said the best way to prevent human trafficking is to be aware of the common risk factors and signs. Victims are often isolated or financially struggling. The sudden appearance of gifts and a withdrawal from friends and family are warnings that something may be wrong.  

“Sometimes it’s a thankless job,” Simpson said of his service with the task force. “But when you hear those success stories, that makes it all worth it.” 

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