AG Marshall introduces anti-human trafficking alliance
MONTGOMERY — Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall announced on Monday a new alliance of law enforcement groups and victims’ services organizations designed to fight human trafficking in Alabama.
Officially titled the Alabama Anti Human Trafficking Alliance, the group aims to enhance the effectiveness of human trafficking prosecutions and better provide for victims by giving them access to services in support of their needs.
Funded with a $2,900,455 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the alliance will provide, among other initiatives, a prosecutor in the state attorney general’s office solely dedicated to human trafficking cases.
Marshall was joined by the members of the task force in Montgomery for the announcement, during which he called human trafficking “a modern form of slavery.”
In addition to Alabama’s AG, representatives from the Montgomery Family Sunshine Center, the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for Northern, Middle and Southern Districts, Homeland Security Investigations, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Wellhouse, Ashakiran Inc., West Alabama Human Trafficking Task Force, and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians signed the official memorandum authorizing the alliance.
Tay Knight, executive director of the Family Sunshine Center, spoke at the event, saying, “We know that law enforcement has demonstrated a commitment to ending human trafficking across the state, but we also know that they often encounter difficulties in locating comprehensive victim’s services.”
The Family Sunshine Center is one of a number of victims’ services organizations in the alliance that plan to provide services such as emergency shelter, residential services, counseling and case management services to human trafficking victims.
Knight added that the alliance is in the process of developing a victims’ services committee and the DOJ grant will allow for the conducting of “a statewide assessment which will help us determine where the greatest risks are and where human trafficking may be taking place.”
Echoing the comments by Knight, Doug Gilmer of the U.S. Dept of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) said that “for a long time, law enforcement has been pretty effective at arresting ourselves out of the problems that we face.”
“What we’ve learned over time is that law enforcement is not always best equipped, on its own, to deal with the unique problems and trauma that victims and survivors of human trafficking face,” Gilmer explained. “This alliance helps to solve that problem.”
Between 2017 and 2019, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 61 individuals have been charged with human trafficking crimes in Alabama state courts, per Marshall. This is a number, he noted, that does not include human traffickers caught in Alabama by federal authorities and charged in federal courts.
The attorney general noted that the cases tried are the “tip of the iceberg” of the problem in Alabama. He relayed that Alabama’s geographical location between the trafficking hubs in New Orleans, Atlanta and other locations means that traffickers are frequently traveling in the state.
Marshall included a promise to human traffickers in his remarks on Monday, saying, “We are coming after you—and we will only become more relentless until the day we end human trafficking in Alabama.”