Officers sharpen skills as human trafficking cases increase

Officers sharpen skills as human trafficking cases increase
Law enforcement training sessions like this one in Montgomery help officers recognize human trafficking and grow the number of cases going to trial. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Those who have the difficult job of investigating human trafficking and helping victims transition back to society were in Montgomery Friday for a round of DOJ training, which was hosted by Alabama’s U.S. Attorneys.

Training sessions help officers recognize human trafficking and grow the number of cases going to trial. Friday’s session focused on the dynamics of child sex trafficking and how to follow the money linked to these cases.

“It has challenges of its own,” stated Richard Moore, U.S. Attorney of Alabama’s Southern District. “For those of us in law enforcement who work in these cases, you have to realize there’s a bigger picture here. You may have to put up with some things that you might not otherwise have to contend with.”

Human trafficking often flies alongside drugs and gun violence and, generally, those subsequent crimes gain law enforcement’s attention first. That was the case in Montgomery when a capital murder investigation led officers to uncover a local human trafficking ring.

Louis Franklin, U.S. Attorney in Alabama’s Middle District, says sex trafficking victims are often the most challenging aspect of the case.

“They have been indoctrinated into the life of being trafficked, being basically a human slave,” Franklin explained. “So they are not willing to cooperate. They have accepted their fate. That is the biggest hurdle you have to clear, because you need a witness to tell about what has happened to them.”

Neither district has prosecuted domestic servitude cases, however, Franklin says it’s something he’s looking into.

“Obviously, we have some matters that we’re looking at that I can’t talk about; but, we have seen it,” Franklin stated. “It’s hidden in plain sight.”

Domestic servitude often appears as a working arrangement, but a perpetrator is controlling a victim’s work, pay, and often where they live in exchange for a debt or personal property.

“They work for that person,” explained Franklin. "They buy the tools that they need to do the work from that person. “It’s involuntary servitude. They will never get out from under the debt they owe that person either because they’re holding their passport or the debt they’ve convinced them that they owe will never be paid.”

If you believe you are the victim of a trafficking situation or may have information about a potential trafficking situation, call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888.

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