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Local LEOs give advice about human trafficking

By: Donnamy Steele

Human trafficking may be the last thing on a teenager’s mind as they pack up their cars to go to the beach or other popular vacation spots for summer break. While everyone is able to travel and leave their homes again amid the recent pandemic, your safety should still be a top priority.

Local beaches are popular vacation spots for many teenagers and with summer months approaching it is important to stay aware of your surroundings.

Opp police chief Kevin Chance gives advice on how to stay aware and alert while still enjoying summer vacation.

Being constantly aware of your surroundings and avoiding potentially dangerous situations is encouraged by Chance. “Always pay attention to your surroundings. Don’t get too intoxicated to the point where you don’t understand what is going on or you can’t tell who you are around,” Chance said. As people travel to unfamiliar areas and indulge in mind-altering substances, Chance explained that it is essential to their safety to stay aware.

Chance explained that it is wise to stay in groups when traveling away from home. “Don’t get separated from your friends and family,” Chance said. He also advises vacationers to keep a cell phone on them at all times. “If you notice someone watching you or following you, call the local law where you are and notify them,” Chance said.

If you feel that you are in danger, Chance gives advice on what to do if you find yourself in a situation like this.

“If someone tries to abduct you, you’re at the mercy of them,” Chance said. “But, if the state you are in allows it, have a weapon on you such as a gun, pepper spray, or a taser if allowed. Fight and try to get away from them. If you do not have a weapon, use whatever you may have on or around you.”

Chance encourages everyone to have fun, but to stay cautious while doing so.

“Enjoy your time, but always be careful of your surroundings,” Chance said.

Like Chance, Florala police chief Sonny Bedsole believes that caution is the most important thing when trying to stay safe away from home.

While partying can be tempting, Bedsole wants everyone to be aware of what situations they may expose themselves to.

“Being approached by people with ‘let’s go party, drink all you want’ can be dangerous,” Bedsole said. “They may push you to become embarrassed and where you want to hide things from your parents, which can put you in a vulnerable position.”

He urges teenagers to use common sense and trust their gut at all times.

“Use common sense,” Bedsole said. “If something seems to be too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t be too trusting. People think that it couldn’t happen to them, but the truth is that it can happen.”

Bedsole wants teenagers to understand that anyone can find themselves in a bad situation, but being cautious can help prevent that.

“If you are in a situation like this, do not hesitate,” Bedsole said.  “Call 911 if you have a cell phone on you. Even if the phone isn’t working, they can still figure out where the call is originating. If you have to flag down a cop driving down the road, do that.”

Bedsole explained that police are trained to be on the lookout for potential human trafficking situations.

“We see a lot of beach traffic in Florala and we have a lot of training on what to cue on, what to look out for and how to spot a potential problem,” Bedsole said.

If people want more information about human trafficking, they can visit www.enditalabama.org.