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Alabama’s sex trafficking crack down continues with another massive bust

The End It movement seeks to stop human trafficking
The End It movement seeks to stop human trafficking

Opelika, Ala. — Yet another year-long investigation into sex trafficking in Alabama yielded a big arrest in Opelika, where a woman was arrested for allegedly forcing multiple underage girls into prostitution.

According to Opelika Police Capt. Shane Healey, 25 year-old Michelle Bufford trafficked multiple girls in a prostitution operation run out of a hotel in the city. Police decided to launch an investigation after visiting the hotel for a trespassing complaint. When officers discovered a 16 year-old girl who was dishonest about her identity, they began to look into the situation.

During the investigation, police interviewed a 14 year old girl and discovered that she had been a runaway from North Alabama. The police also learned that the girls had been forced into prostitution and placed them into protective custody.

Bufford was arrested after a year-long investigation on two felony counts of human trafficking first degree. She is being held in the Lee County Sheriff’s Office on $200,000 bond.

This is Alabama’s second high-profile sex trafficking bust in as many weeks.

Late last month, authorities arrested 25-year-old Alexander Jackson of Arkansas, who has been charged with Human Trafficking in the 2nd Degree. According to officials, the operation began because of tips received from concerned local businesses. Lt. Clay Hammac noted that business owners were concerned about prostitution activity in the Inverness area.

RELATED: BOOM: Undercover sting operation blows up Alabama sex trafficking ring

Few Alabamians know that the state is home to a sex-trafficking super-highway. The stretch of I-20 between Atlanta, Georgia, and Birmingham, Alabama, which is used by over 10 million people each year, has the unenviable title of being “America’s number one road for human sex trafficking.”

RELATED: The ‘Sex Trafficking Superhighway’ most Alabamians don’t even realize runs through their state

And business along I-20 is booming. Sex trafficking is the world’s fastest growing illegal activity. It is a $13 billion per year business in the United States alone, and 75% of the victims are being trafficked as sex slaves.

Shockingly, in 2013, four times the amount of people were sold as slaves in America than the year before the Civil War.

Yet, modern technology has given Alabamians the ability to help law enforcement stop such tragedies. The new tool, called TraffickCam, allows travelers to submit pictures of hotel rooms around the world. These images are then matched against a national database used by police and can be extremely helpful in finding victims of sex trafficking.

RELATED: How Alabamians snapping pictures of their hotel rooms could help stop sex trafficking

Thanks to incredible public support, 1.5 million photographs have already been added to databases, aiding law enforcement efforts across the country. The revolutionary product was created by a collaboration between Washington University, St. Louis researchers and the Exchange Initiative, a non-profit formed by Nix Conference and Meeting Management.

With continued effort and public input, the app is likely to save countless lives. The TraffickCam app is free and available for iPhone, iPads, and Android devices.

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