Vestavia Hills first city in the state to proclaim community a “sex trafficking free zone”

Vestavia Hills first 'trafficking-free' zone in Alabama

VESTAVIA HILLS, Ala. (WBRC) - The 2021 World Games are just around the corner and increased tourism means a possible increase in sex trafficking.

Vestavia Hills has announced a plan to spot and stop predators.

At Monday night’s council meeting, Mayor Ashley Curry signed a proclamation - an initiative of U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking (USIAHT) that will require all city staff to be trained on how to spot sex trafficking.

The proclamation makes Vestavia Hills the first city in the state to take an initiative against sex trafficking.

Curry said since July, out of a total of 49 sex trafficking arrests, there had been 17 in Vestavia and the others in Pelham and Homewood.

“But it’s not just a problem in Vestavia Hills, it’s the whole metro Birmingham area,” said Curry. “In fact, I-20 and I-65, that happens to cross at Birmingham, those interstates are known as the superhighway for sex trafficking.”

The city is now partnering with local advocacy group Child Trafficking Solutions Project which will train city staff and head community outreach.

“There’s three actionable items: One, they have to sign the actually proclamation proclaiming the city a traffic-free zone similar to a drug free zone. It doesn’t mean that trafficking doesn’t happen here, it means they are taking it seriously. Two, they have to train all of their city staff. And, three they have to adopt a zero tolerance policy for purchasing sex at work. That goes along with the data that we found that the number one time people purchase sex is 3:00 p.m. at work and we’re looking for ways to curb the demand," said Jordan Gidden with CTSP.

There are two signs Gidden said someone is being trafficked: “If the person looks confused, doesn’t know where they are or what they are in or what time it is that is a sign they are being trafficked,” explained Gidden. “A lot of people who are trafficking victims have branded tattoos with their traffickers name in a visible location and that’s a power tool that the trafficker will use to assert their power over the victim.”

Vestavia plans to expand the training to the hospitality industry, gas stations, and schools.

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