LEE COUNTY, Ala. (WRBL) — Driving a truck for three years taught Latasha Allen to look out for anything that even smells like sex trafficking.
“I always keep an eye out for young girls that may have ran away or may have got kidnapped and is out here doing stuff,” Allen says. “As drivers on the road, we get to see a lot of stuff going on, so we always have to pay attention.”
Governor Kay Ivey signed House Bill 261 into law Monday. Anyone training for a commercial drivers license in Alabama will, come January, also be required to learn how to spot, stop and report sex trafficking.
Sheriff Jay Jones says Lee County in particular needs all the extra eyes it can get.
“Certainly with our Interstate 85 coming right through the heart of Lee County, being a major corridor from New Orleans, from Texas, coming up through Mobile up to the Atlanta metropolitan area,” Jones explains to News 3’s Mikhaela Singleton.
Jones says the bill reflects what law enforcement already knows.
“The truck stops have historically, unfortunately, been a place where this sex trafficking has taken place,” the Sheriff says.
With the Cusseta Travel plaza, a major truck stop, sitting north of the county on 85 and another Loves Travel Stop close to completion in Smiths Station, Jones says training for truck drivers is essential to combat sex trafficking.
“It brings awareness to just the signs to look for, certain types of behavior, certain types of indicators that a person may not necessarily be aware of, but this training will that to the forefront,” Sheriff Jones says.
“It will help. It definitely will,” Allen says.
House Bill 261 will take effect January 2020. It will require the Alabama Community College System Board of Trustees to work with key sex trafficking awareness groups to both create and update the courses the truck drivers will need to take on sex trafficking.