Vestavia, Birmingham + Mountain Brook are now TraffickingFree Zones

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Vesetavia was the first city in the BIrmingham area to declare itself a TraffickingFree Zone
Vestavia Mayor Ashley Curry (fourth from left) and others at the signing of the TraffickingFree Zone proclamation. Photo via Facebook

The cities of Vestavia, Birmingham and Mountain Brook have recently declared themselves TraffickingFree Zones in advance of the 2021 World Games. Find out what this means and why it matters.

1. Let’s start with why: what is human trafficking and why does it matter?

Birmingham is a hub for human trafficking
Just like the intersection of North-South and East-West railroads together with the raw materials for steel turned Birmingham into the Magic City, the intersection of all these interstates together with vulnerable young people makes the city a hub for trafficking. Map from ian.macky.net

We actually covered this in a lot of detail in our most popular piece of 2019. The very brief summary is this:

  • The “use of force, fraud, or coercion to exploit someone for labor or commercial sex.”—Department of Homeland Security
  • “Any minor exploited for commercial sex is a victim of human trafficking.” —Chappelle Watkins, The WellHouse
  • Trafficking’s a big deal in Birmingham. The junctions of I-59, I-20 and I-65 makes the city a hub.
  • 40% of all human trafficking in the US happens in the Southeast.
  • I-20 between Birmingham and Atlanta is known as “the sex trafficking superhighway.”
  • Anyone can be trafficked.
  • It’s not kidnapping or abduction.
  • And, it can happen via social media or online multiplayer games like Fortnite or Minecraft. The usual scenario is that someone strikes up a “friendship” with a vulnerable person and it goes from there.

2. So what exactly is a TraffickingFree Zone?

TraffickingFree Zone
TraffickingFree Zone is a nationwide effort. Graphic via Facebook

Nobody’s naive enough to think that a simple proclamation will make the problem of human trafficking go away. What these proclamations do, though, is take a stand and inspire other municipalities to do the same.

Vestavia was the first city in Alabama to sign a proclamation against trafficking. Birmingham is the largest city, by population, in the country to declare itself a TraffickingFree Zone. Now that’s some leadership.

There are two key parts to becoming a TraffickingFree Zone:

  1. Providing training to all city employees regarding trafficking.
  2. Adopting a zero-tolerance policy regarding purchasing commercial sex at work.

3. Who’s behind the TraffickingFree Zones initiative?

TraffickingFree Zone proclamation for the City of Mountain Brook. Photo via Facebook

A few key players are behind the TraffickingFree Zone proclamation:

  • US Institute Against Human Trafficking (USIAHT)
  • Child Trafficking Solutions Project (an initiative of the Children’s Policy Council and the Jefferson County Family Court)

The local Child Trafficking Solutions Project will help facilitate the trainings.

Here’s what Jordan Giddens, Community Engagement Coordinator for the Child Trafficking Solutions Project (CTSP), had to say in a press release:

“Our coalition, representing over 50 organizations across the Birmingham metro, has worked tirelessly to saturate the entire Birmingham community with anti-trafficking awareness, and we are overjoyed that municipalities across the entire state are taking the steps to declare themselves a TraffickingFree Zone.”

4. You, too, can get involved in stopping human trafficking.

To learn how to declare a TraffickingFree Zone (whether for your city or business) or to learn how to can help, visit the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking.

Here are some useful numbers to keep on hand in case you think you’re seeing something that looks like trafficking:

  • The National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1.888.373.7888 or text HELP to BeFree (233733)
  • The Department of Homeland Security’s trafficking hotline: 1.866.347.2423

Now tell us, Birmingham, what are you doing to learn more about human trafficking and to stop this problem in our area? Tag us on social @bhamnow and let us know!