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Human Trafficking: More Local than You Think

Anna Grace Pell, Writer

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Most people in the Madison and Huntsville area dismiss the danger of human trafficking because it is not prevalent in their local communities.

When a sampling of Bob Jones students were asked what countries they think are prone to human trafficking, the majority of the responses included places like the Philippines or Mexico. When students were asked which areas of the United States are the worst for human trafficking, most students named large cities like Los Angeles and New York.

Most people are unaware that these incidents also take place in our own communities and the surrounding counties as well. Just last August an 85 year old Florence man, Timothy Wylie Staggs, was arrested for offering money to a woman if she “found two young girls for him,” court documents allege. “(Staggs) further told her that he would want one of them to live with him and work for him, but she could not have a boyfriend and could not see anyone,” the investigator wrote. This was not Staggs’ first charge regarding having sex with minors who are unable to consent. His first arrest occurred in July 2016 along with Florence attorney Edward Ray “Chip” Dillard. The two men were arrested on the accusation of being connected to a sex trafficking ring. This example shines a light on the local human trafficking cases that hit a little too close to home for us to possibly ignore.

Recently, the media reported the bust of a large human trafficking ring in Atlanta, Georgia. The FBI stated that they recovered 84 minors and arrested 120 traffickers. The FBI officers used a variation of methods to discover these criminals. The youngest victim rescued is only 3 months old, though the average age of these victims is around 15 years old. This rescue was apart of the FBI’s Operation Cross Country XI, which is connected to their Innocence Lost National Initiative. This project began in 2003 and has successfully recovered more than 6,500 child identifications and locations since then. “The many men and women of law enforcement working on this operation are keenly aware of the importance of recovering these vulnerable young victims,” said David J. LeValley, Special Agent in Charge of the Atlanta FBI Field Office.

Georgia ranks as the 6th worst state for human trafficking to take place. The highways that travel directly through Atlanta can be a breeding ground for these crimes to take place. The worst states for human trafficking are California, Texas, Florida, Ohio, and New York.

Red flags of human trafficking include avoiding eye contact, not allowed to leave where they are staying, not in charge of their own money, and appearing malnourished or physically assaulted. Being able to recognize a victim of human trafficking and alerting the authorities may end up saving someone’s life and preventing the traffickers from harming others.

The National Human Trafficking Resource Center’s help line is 1 (888) 373-7888. This line is open 24/7 and the workers speak over 200 languages. Alabama may not be known as a state that has a high crime rate, but traffickers could be searching for their next victim anywhere. 

Students interested in educating others about Teen Safety, including but not limited to the topic of human trafficking, may be interested in participating in the KinderVision The Greatest Save Teen PSA contest. See Mrs. Panagos in C126.

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Human Trafficking: More Local than You Think