Montgomery Police investigating department's first human trafficking case
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A human trafficking suspect was arrested and two victims were recovered in Montgomery Monday night, according to the Montgomery Police Department.
Theon Dontray Smith, 27, of South Carolina, was arrested and charged with two counts of first degree human trafficking.
It is the first human trafficking case that the Montgomery Police Department has investigated since the state law was passed in 2010.
MPD Chief of Staff, Bryan Jurkofsky says the department received a call from out-of-state parents, which is what triggered the investigation.
"They received contact from their daughter, who said she was in Montgomery and asked for a welfare check," Jurkofsky said. "Patrol units responded and identified two minor females and one adult male."
The victims and suspect were found in a hotel room in the 1400 block of Eastern Boulevard. Jurkofsky said evidence in the room suggested the girls were being sexually exploited.
"Now we must find where they came from, where their stops were made. That's out of our jurisdiction. That's why we have our federal partners involved with us. That's the key to this case," Jurkofsky explained. "The minute we identified it as human trafficking, we reached out to our federal and state partners. It's seamless because of the training that's been afforded us through the U.S. Attorney's Office and the partnerships and interactions we have with them on a daily basis."
Jurkofsky could not confirm if the victims were runaways, or how they were taken into human trafficking, but explained human traffickers prey on those who are abandoned by their families or run away from home.
"They take them to other cities and force them to engage in this activity. There's no one to call, nowhere to turn; they're stuck. Luckily both of these young ladies were able to find a way out," Jurkofsky said.
Montgomery is vulnerable to drug and human trafficking as it's located near the interchange of two major interstates.
Jurkofsky says it's top of mind for all officers.
"We know it's a corridor for drugs, we know it's a corridor for illegal profits, illegal activity as well as human trafficking," Jurkofsky said. "The key is being able to identify the people who are involved and stopping them."
Smith is currently being held in the Montgomery County Jail, and his bond was set at $120,000.
Montgomery police say the arrest is in connection to "an ongoing investigation." No other details were immediately released.
Both the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Alabama's Middle District are involved in this investigation, but there's no word on which office will ultimately prosecute the case.
Alabama's human trafficking legislation was passed in 2010. Since then, the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office has prosecuted two human trafficking cases, both resulted in convictions. The District Attorney's Office in the 19th Judicial Circuit, which includes Elmore, Autauga and Chilton Counties, has not prosecuted a human trafficking case.
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