MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Human trafficking is a growing criminal industry. In fact, the FBI says it's grown so large, it's now the second largest criminal industry in the world. Only the illegal drug trade is larger. But human trafficking is growing faster, meaning it's only a matter of time before it's the largest.
Friday, the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force held its annual summit in downtown Montgomery to spread awareness and tips on how to fight the crime.
"We really have some great focused down, drilling areas that we're looking at where it may be individuals who are on the front lines such as educators, school counselors, stuff like that or individuals who are wanting to know 'Hey, how does porn actually fuel sex trafficking?' or what is actually contributing to this and ultimately how we can address the demand," explained David Pinkleton, fundraising chair for the Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force. "That's another focus we have here."
An estimated 700,000 victims are trafficked in the US each year, including right here in Alabama. That's because our roads lead all the way from the ocean in Mobile and to one of the world's busiest airports in Atlanta.
"So what we're seeing is individuals are using Interstate 20, for example, which has been known as the super highway of human trafficking, where they'll bring in a group of individuals, girls for example, in, they'll have some buyers for sex, and after they've been used, unfortunately, they'll take them out," Pinkleton said. "So we're seeing that in all parts of the state, from Interstate 65, Interstate 20, even Interstate 85 heading into Atlanta."
Birmingham lawyer Greg Zarzaur is going after the businesses and websites that make human trafficking possible. He says some companies are profiting off of ads they place on websites that sell young women.
"Operators of the website not only allow that content but may have knowingly facilitated that content to exist in such a way that it may not have been picked up by law enforcement officials," Zarzaur said.
Human trafficking is estimated to bring in somewhere between $32 billion and $150 billion each year, Zarzaur says by going after those responsible, he's making sure his clients are taken care of and so that those businesses learn a lesson.
"Whether it's mental healthcare, pain and suffering, mental anguish, but also to deter others from committing this conduct in the future," Zarzaur said. "To punish that particular defendant and to deter others who are similarly situated from committing similar crimes in the future.
You can find more information about human trafficking in Alabama at EndItAlabama.org
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