Jacobs issues proclamation declaring city human trafficking-free zone

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Mayor Woody Jacobs presents the proclamation committing Cullman to becoming a TraffickingFree Zone. Left to right are Liletta Jenkins, Leah Belser, Jill Herring, Ashley Lee, Kathy Wilson, Jordan Giddens, Jacobs, Judge Kim Chaney, Haley Gaines and Kim Searcy. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – The City of Cullman on Thursday morning issued a proclamation in partnership with the Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force, declaring the city a “TraffickingFree Zone.” With the issuance of the proclamation, the municipal government committed itself to educating every City employee on how to recognize and respond to human trafficking, and to adopting a zero tolerance policy toward any activities that promote or support trafficking.

The proclamation reads:

“Human Trafficking Free Zone” 

The World Games Birmingham 2021 

WHEREAS, the City of Birmingham has been chosen to host the World Games 2021, an international sporting event that will bring thousands of athletes, as well as countless tourists and media, to the Birmingham metro area; and 

WHEREAS, an increase in tourists seeking entertainment, including commercial sex, increases the potential risk for exploitation and human trafficking. Traffickers are opportunistic hunters, and they see major sporting events and the hundreds of thousands of people who flock to sports venues as an opportunity for huge profits with very little risk of penalty or punishment; and 

WHEREAS, human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery in which victims are forced to work in various forms of exploitation, including debt bondage, forced marriage, labor and commercial sexual exploitation, that are induced through force, fraud or coercion. The City of Cullman, Alabama is committed to becoming a Trafficking Free Zone ensuring that our community is prepared to recognize signs of human trafficking; and 

WHEREAS, due to its isolating nature, many individuals are unaware that trafficking exists in their neighborhoods. The first step in eliminating human trafficking in our community is to educate others. We must work diligently to ensure that all front-line industries are aware of this issue and how to spot it. 

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, I, Woody Jacobs, Mayor of the City of Cullman, Alabama, do hereby proclaim that we will continue our efforts to combat the commercial sexual exploitation of our children and vulnerable adults, and mitigate the associated public safety, economic, and health risks to our community, in collaboration with the Child Trafficking Solutions Project, the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking, and other anti-human trafficking organizations by, 

COMBATING COMMERCIAL SEXUAL EXPLOITATION THROUGH COMPREHENSIVE EDUCATION OF OUR STAFF AND THE IMPLEMENTATION AND ENFORCEMENT OF A ZERO TOLERANCE POLICY AGAINST ANY ACT WHICH MAY SUPPORT HUMAN TRAFFICKING 

and ask ALL citizens of the City of Cullman join us in promoting a shift away from the culture of tolerance toward human trafficking. 

A statement issued by Jordan Giddens, community engagement coordinator for the Children’s Policy Council of Jefferson County’s Child Trafficking Solutions Project, on behalf of the task force said:

The proclamation, similar to the Drug Free Zone initiatives in the early 2000s, requires that: 1) all city staff receive human trafficking training, and 2) the city adopt a “zero-tolerance” policy regarding purchasing commercial sex at work. The Trafficking Free Zone initiative is a nation-wide program of the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking (USIAHT), and local anti-trafficking coalition, the Child Trafficking Solutions Project (CTSP), which is an initiative of the Children’s Policy Council and the Jefferson County Family Court.  

Kathy Wilson, chair of the Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force said that, “The City of Cullman has always taken the issue of human trafficking, and specifically child trafficking, very seriously. We were one of the first counties in the state to form a human trafficking task force, and we are excited to join other Alabama cities in taking this vital step to show the community how seriously we take the issue.”

Geoff Rogers, CEO of USIAHT, said, “We are beyond excited that the City of Cullman has taken this vital step to eradicate human trafficking and educate their entire community on the real and present dangers that their children face. Their willingness to join the movement is a testament to how seriously the entire state of Alabama is taking this issue, and we look forward to working with more Alabama cities in the future.” 

Jordan Giddens, community engagement coordinator for the Child Trafficking Solutions Project, said that, “The ripple effect we have seen since the first Trafficking Free Zone was established last week has been enormous, and has extended beyond the Birmingham metro. Our goal is to have every municipality in Jefferson County signed on and trained before The World Games 2021 Birmingham, but we are so happy that other municipalities and regions are joining this mission and taking this issue seriously, from the top down.” 

To learn more about human trafficking and how you can help, please visit Homeland Security’s Blue Campaign website (dhs.gov/blue-campaign). If you or your business are interested in becoming a Trafficking Free Zone or would like to receive human trafficking awareness training, please visit the website for the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking (usiaht.org). If you suspect a human trafficking instance or emergency, please either call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP to BeFree (233733) or call the Department of Homeland Security’s trafficking hotline at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE (1-866-347-2423).

For more on the Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force, visit www.facebook.com/Cullman-County-Human-Trafficking-Task-Force-870585096352748/

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W.C. Mann

craig@cullmantribune.com