Cullman County partners with U.S. Department of Homeland Security to combat human trafficking

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Wendy Sack

Members of the Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force include:

(back row, l-r) U.S. Attorney’s Office Northern District member, FBI representative, Tenille Garnett, Andria Richter, Judge Kim Chaney, Heather Gable, Shaletia Turbyfield, Scott Carpenter, U.S. Attorney’s Office Northern District member and Brandi Suh

(front row, l-r) Kay Bell, Blakely Hopper, Kathy Wilson, Shelly Sharp and Bethany Shaddrix

CULLMAN – The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced a new partnership between the DHS Blue Campaign, the department’s unified effort to combat human trafficking, and Cullman County, aimed at raising public awareness about human trafficking. Cullman is only the second county in the state of Alabama to partner with DHS. Jefferson County is also a partner. The news was shared at today’s monthly meeting of the Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force.

“This is exceptional because we are only the second county in the state to do this. This is monumental for Cullman,” said Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force Chair Kathy Wilson. “Our quality of life here is like no other, which is why we’ve got to keep it that way.”

Through this partnership, co-branded Blue Campaign materials will be posted throughout the county as part of a public awareness campaign to educate local residents on how to recognize and report potential instances of human trafficking. Blue Campaign Chair Maria Odom signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on behalf of the DHS with Cullman County Commission Chairman Kenneth Walker.

“We cannot combat human trafficking alone,” said Odom. “The Blue Campaign works closely with our partners across the nation to help ensure that our communities know how to recognize and report the signs of human trafficking. We are honored to be working with Cullman County to bring an end to this heinous crime.”

Earlier this year, the Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force, comprised of representatives from local community organizations, juvenile probation and the district attorney’s office, held a free public training with the DHS Blue Campaign. This latest partnership will build on previous human trafficking training in the county by spreading public awareness materials to members of the Cullman County community, to include more targeted materials to attorneys, juveniles and members of the trucking industry in the county.

“I am extremely pleased and proud that through the efforts of the Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force that Cullman County has been chosen to partner with the United States Department of Homeland Security with the Blue Campaign to bring awareness and education about human trafficking to our county and state,” said Cullman County Presiding District Judge Kim Chaney, who is a task force member.

“It is my understanding that Cullman County will be only the second governmental entity in the state of Alabama that has been selected by Homeland Security to participate in the Blue Campaign,” he continued. “This partnership will allow the Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force to access world-class resources to inform and educate area law enforcement, medical providers, attorneys, educators, business leaders and the community about human exploitation for profit.

“Hopefully we can use these resources to make a positive impact not only in Cullman County but the entire state of Alabama, “said Chaney. “But more importantly, as we call attention to these issues I hope to use these resources to work to make Cullman County a safer place for our children and families.”

The Blue Campaign works in partnership with law enforcement, government, non-governmental and private organizations to protect the basic right of freedom and to bring those who exploit human lives to justice.

“Cullman County is pleased to partner with the DHS Blue Campaign to combat human trafficking,” said Cullman County Commissioner Kerry Watson. “We are a small community, but through these efforts hope to make a big difference in human trafficking awareness.”

Cullman’s task force is planning several activities in the coming weeks. On Nov. 16, the group will make a presentation at Cullman High School. On Jan. 10, they will speak at the Cullman County Republican Women meeting. The month of January is designated as Human Trafficking Awareness Month, with Jan. 11 being Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Look for more details as in the coming days and weeks.

Find the Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force on Facebook at http://qrne.ws/ht.

For more information on the Blue Campaign, visit www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign.

 

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