CULLMAN – This month is Human Trafficking Awareness Month nationwide. It has a been a month full of advocacy activities locally, with Cullman Mayor Max A. Townson declaring Monday, Jan. 11 as Human Trafficking Awareness Day and the Cullman County Commission declaring January 2016 Human Trafficking Awareness Month in Cullman County. Next up will be a Public Awareness and Investigation Training on Tuesday, Jan. 26.
“There will be a public training on Human Trafficking Awareness and Investigation on Tuesday, Jan. 26 from 6 – 7:30 p.m. at Daystar Church,” said Kathy Wilson, Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force chair. “This is where any concerned citizens, the public – anybody can attend. We want everyone to spread the word about this public training, it is very important.”
Presenting at the event will be Scott Santoro, who provides training for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. He is the senior training advisor for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign. A former attorney, he currently trains state and federal law enforcement on human trafficking.
The event is being sponsored by the Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force, District Attorney Wilson Blaylock, Judge Kim Chaney and Cullman Savings Bank.
Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery. It is a crime that happens when a person uses force, fraud or coercion to control another person. The person being controlled is forced into commercial sex acts and/or soliciting work or services against his or her will. The average age of entry into the U.S. sex trade is 12 – 14. It is happening all over the world and right here in the United States. Sadly, it is going on right here in Cullman County. “I wish I could say this didn’t happen in Cullman County, but it’s an issue that we have here,” said Chaney, who is a member of the Task Force.
The training is free to the public. Daystar Church is located at 200 Daystar Drive in Cullman.
“Jan. 26 is going to be for individuals and families that want to learn how to keep their children safe,” Chaney continued. “The average age of a (human trafficking victim) is 13-years-old; so you have young people who make connections online who are lured away with promises. Those promises soon turn to exploitation.”
The Task Force says it needs all the help it can get to prevent both children and adults in our area from becoming victims. Everyone is encouraged to get involved. The next meeting will be on Wednesday, March 2, at noon in Chaney's courtroom on the second floor of the Cullman County Courthouse.