ATHENS, AL (WAFF) - Limestone County District Attorney Brian Jones said human trafficking is a growing problem in the Tennessee Valley, and many times, the victims are in plain sight. Educating the public on what to look for was the driving force behind Tuesday's seminar addressing the issue.
Many people often think about human trading as a third-world issue. But the Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates there are at least 200,000 people, mostly children and women, who are enslaved in the United States.
The Huntsville-Madison County Human Trafficking Task Force, the Limestone County District Attorney's Office and First Christian Church in Athens spearheaded the meeting.
The district attorney said it can be difficult for authorities to break into these human trafficking rings without leads from the public, so they want to educate residents on what to look for.
"We want the general public to come," Jones said. "It's going to be a very informative seminar. We want to call attention to the things the general public can do to assist us. There's things to look for, and we want to be able to identify those things so that if you see something like that, you need to call law enforcement."
Here are a few of the physical signs, according to the FBI:
- Injuries that appear to be inflicted from beatings or weapons
- Signs of torture, for example, cigarette burns
- Scarring or other types of branding that indicate ownership
- Signs of malnourishment
The pastor of the First Christians Church in Athens, Clint Coffey, said his goal is to help and minister to both victims and perpetrators. He wants his congregation and community to be ready to step up when needed.
"We help to educate our members and raise awareness in the community," Coffey said. "Hopefully people will respond when the need arises. They'll know what to do, they'll recognize it and have the tools they need to make a difference."