DA warns of possible trafficking

Published 11:03 pm Monday, February 13, 2017

The Covington County District Attorney’s office is warning residents of an incident that could have turned out badly.

“A Covington County resident reported that (Sunday night) her 17-year-old son was approached by a man while buying gas at a gas station on Hwy. 29 North,” DA Walt Merrell said. “The man showed the boy a roll of cash and tried three different times to get the boy to walk to his truck with him.”

First, the boy was told the man wanted to hire him for construction work.

“When the boy declined and said he had a job, the man then said he had a little brother who needed a job and would pay the boy to hire him,” Merrell said. “After the boy said he wasn’t interested in that, either, the man told the boy to come to his truck to look at some tools he wanted to sell.”

Merrell said that with all three propositions, the man waved a roll of cash at the boy.

“The boy went home, and not sure why the man was trying to lure him to his truck, but knowing something wasn’t right, reported the incident to his parents, who recognized it as potential human trafficking,” he said. “Fifty percent of the kids who are lured into human trafficking are boys. Teach your kids to be aware of who they are talking to and to never go off with a stranger. No matter whether they are boys or girls, how old they are or how big they are. There is no telling what or who may have been waiting by that man’s truck.”

Human trafficking is a form of modern slavery that occurs in every state, including Alabama.

There are generally two types: sex and labor.

According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, sex trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age. Labor trafficking involved involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage and slavery.

Since 2007, there have been 994 total calls about human trafficking in Alabama to the NHTH.

There have been 327 total victims classified as high and 313 classified as moderate.

NHTH says that cases categorized as high contain a high level of indicators of human trafficking. Cases coded as moderate contain several indicators of human trafficking or resemble common trafficking scenarios but lack core details of force, fraud or coercion.

Last year, 48 human trafficking cases were reported and 191 calls were received.

Of those trafficking cases 32 were sex trafficking; 12 labor trafficking, two were trafficking type not specified and two were sex and labor.

The top venues/industries for labor trafficking were traveling sales crews, restaurants food service, health and beauty services, recreational facilities and agriculture.

Top venues/ industries for sex trafficking were hotel/motel based, residential brothels; commercial-front brothels’ truck stop-based; and online ad, venue unknown.

In 2015, 54 human trafficking cases were reported and 190 calls were received.

Of those cases 34 were sex trafficking cases; 13 labor trafficking; six labor and sex and one not specified.

The top venues/industries were slightly different from 2016, including traveling sales crews; domestic work; restaurants and food service; traveling carnivals and retail or other small business.

The sex trafficking venues were also slightly different, including hotel and motel based; truck stop-based; online ad, venue unknown, escort services and other venues.