MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — During the 9th annual Human Trafficking Summit, advocates are bringing awareness to the crime and sharing ways to support victims.
A truck parked outside the Renaissance Hotel where the Summit was held is one of the ways the organization “Truckers Against Trafficking” is calling attention to what they say is modern slavery.
It’s called the Freedom Riders Project. Inside the vehicle is an exhibit showing items from survivors of human trafficking.
“This mirror was what this 18-year-old girl actually had, where she put on lipstick right before she had to do a ‘date,'” Freedom Drivers Project Director Brandy Belton said.
Belton says they use this truck as an educational tool — driving it across the country to show the real human impacts of the crime. After the summit, it’ll head to Frisco, Texas for its next event.
The nonprofit trains truck drivers on recognizing and reporting human trafficking.
“The areas that they were being seen in are a lot of truck stops, hotels, and these are areas that truck drivers being up and down the highway and the roadways, they’re the ones that could potentially be the first contact, coming into contact with the victim,” Belton said.
Alabama Trucking Association President Mark Colson says so far more than 30,000 Alabama Trucking Industry professionals have taken the training. It teaches viewers, whether they’re truckers or not, how to recognize signs of human trafficking and report it.
“You’ll hear today from law enforcement and human rights activists and victims advocates that we’ve seen results from those actions,” Colson said. “It’s a heinous crime. Human trafficking is modern-day slavery, and the trucking industry is proud to stand with those to do something about it.”
It’s a problem prevalent not just in Alabama. Anti-Human Trafficking Alliance Coordinator Chris Lim says it can happen anywhere.
“It doesn’t necessarily have to be on the main highways or the big cities. It could happen in small towns and rural communities, so we all need to be vigilant because of that,” Lim said.
Lim’s task force was started two years ago by the Attorney General’s Office and The Family Sunshine Center to support victims and prosecute offenders.
Alabama has had a human trafficking law since 2010. In 2016, the state passed a “Safe Harbor Act” ensuring that children caught up in human trafficking are recognized as victims, not criminals.