MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — The Alabama Human Trafficking Summit convened for the third time in Montgomery on Friday–also kicking off the weekend of the biggest sporting event in the country.
While those two things may sound completely independent of each other, experts say that past statistics have shown otherwise, and Alabama also plays a part in the unsettling phenomenon.
“There were 300 more ads for prostitution or sex trafficking during past major sporting events, and that’s because anytime you have a 100,000 or more people encroaching on a city then you’re going to have those pimps coming to that city as well, because that’s how they make their money,” explained Alexa James, co-founder and Vice President of Blanket Fort Hope, a nonprofit that focuses on child victims of human trafficking.
James has been working for the past two years to bring a safe house for those young victims to Shelby County.
“Right now, there’s not a shelter in Alabama specifically for child trafficking victims,” she explained, “and we believe that education is going to help end trafficking and housing is going to heal these children.”
James — and many others with knowledge of the underground world of human trafficking — understand why it’s so important that Alabama have an in-take shelter for these victims.
“Interstate 20 is actually known as the superhighway of human trafficking,” explained David Pinkleton, fundraising chair for the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force. “It cuts right there through downtown Birmingham, and what we’re finding, unfortunately with the interstate system that you and I use to get from Birmingham to Montgomery — is that people are using it to bring in girls, for example, for a short period of time. Buyers are available, and then they leave.”
James says the average age of victims keeps getting younger and younger. Right now, it’s about 11-14 years old.
Blanket Fort Hope is aiming to have the intake shelter open within the next year or two. Summits like the one in Montgomery aim to bring lawmakers, law enforcement, teachers, healthcare providers, and others together–to learn about what’s happening both locally and around the nation. They also hope to use that information to assist victims–and prevent other from becoming victimized.
If you believe that someone is a victim of human trafficking you can report it by calling 911 or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. You can also text “BeFree” (233733)
For more information on Blanket Fort Hope’s efforts, visit: http://www.blanketforthope.org/