Human trafficking hits close to home
By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer
PELHAM—Human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide, and a rapidly growing problem in the United States that hits very close to home. On May 10, Pelham High School hosted a presentation by the WellHouse, a faith-based, nonprofit anti-trafficking organization, that shed light on the situation here in Alabama.
“We’re dealing with a subject that has really traveled under the radar here in Alabama,” State Senator Jabo Waggoner said in his opening remarks at the May 10 event. “We do not need this in Alabama, we do not want this in Alabama, and hopefully we can eliminate this in Alabama.”
Human trafficking is “the fastest growing crime” in the United States, and 47 percent of the $18 billion domestic industry is coming from the southeast region, WellHouse Development Director Alexa James explained. Due to its heavy truck traffic, James characterized I-20 as a “superhighway of human trafficking.”
The WellHouse, founded by former trafficking victim Tajuan McCarty, has rescued 110 women and children from as young as 13 years old from trafficking situations across Alabama, including rescues from areas such as Pelham, Mountain Brook and Greystone. James cited the recent shutdown of two houses in Pelham run by “bottoms,” former trafficked girls who work to recruit more girls.
“There’s no age limit, there’s no face, there’s no color,” James said. “Our children are quickly becoming commodity to these people.”
To combat the issue in the state, Alabama has set up a human trafficking task force consisting of a “cross-section of people in Alabama who deal with this issue,” Waggoner said.
Additionally, James explained there are ways to fight human trafficking at. The first step is to bring awareness to the problem, both in schools and at home.
“Schools are the prime area we need to be in,” James said, adding that parents should also work to stay involved and informed of their children’s lives. “Lots of times girls are getting into this because of drugs.”
For more information about human trafficking and warning signs for potential victims, visit the WellHouse website, The-wellhouse.org.