UWA police department hosts human trafficking class

MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - Law enforcement has identified human trafficking as a real and growing problem. It doesn't necessarily involve the movement of the victim from one place to another, but it can. Because it's complex, the University of West Alabama Police Department hosted a class Wednesday to spread awareness of this crime.

"When we have the opportunity to train a bunch of law enforcement and other community members all at one time, it's very efficient. We can get across the information that's needed, so they know how to best engage with potential victims with human trafficking. It’s to help our community with this issue," said UWA program director Chris Lim.

This training is not just meant for law enforcement, but first responders, social workers, healthcare professionals and educators.

"Everybody hears about human trafficking on a weekly basis, but nobody really knows what it is or what needs to be done about it. Hopefully this class will give law enforcement, healthcare and other people a little bit more knowledge, so they can deal with the situation, know who to call and how to deal with them," said UWA Police Chief Jeff Manuel.

Human trafficking involves the use of force or fraud to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. Traffickers might use violence, manipulation, or false promises to lure victims into trafficking situations.

"The main thing is it's happening in our communities. It doesn't matter if it's a small community or a large one. It’s all over the U.S. It's very rapid in Alabama, Mississippi or any of the surrounding states. The southeast is particularly saturated with trafficked cases," said Pat McCay, chair of the Human Trafficking Task Force.

Law enforcement shares how you can identify human trafficking victims.

"A human trafficking victim is not necessarily your stereotypical person whose life is in order, then all of the sudden they're captured by this trafficker. It’s very subtle. A subtle process and a manipulative process where the victim doesn't realize they are a victim until they evolve in the behavior, that victim," said UWA Police Officer Leslie Hines.

According to Mashable.com there are an estimated 21 million people in forced or coerced human trafficking worldwide.