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Community combating human trafficking

Task force joined by James R. Smith Trucking; community leaders issue proclamations

Earlier this week, James R. Smith Trucking Company signed on to partner with the Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force through “Truckers Against Trafficking.” (Photo courtesy Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force)

 

CULLMAN COUNTY - Friday, Jan. 11 was national Human Trafficking Awareness Day, and the Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force had a full schedule for both that day and the week leading up to it.  After The Tribune’s story ran last week, Director Kathy Wilson was contacted by Birmingham television media and others, and she has done multiple interviews. On Tuesday of this week, the Cullman County Commission signed a proclamation recognizing January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month, followed through the week by proclamations from the mayors and councils of Holly Pond and Dodge City.  On Friday, the task force display was set up at Karma’s Coffee House in Cullman’s Warehouse District, while Wilson visited Cullman City Hall to receive a proclamation from Mayor Woody Jacobs.

In a press release following the proclamation, Jacobs said, “This is a real issue – a real problem.  Thank you for bringing awareness to human trafficking and for working to prevent this terrible crime from happening in Cullman and Cullman County.”

James R. Smith and Truckers Against Trafficking

Wilson received a most pleasant and welcome surprise earlier in the week when James R. Smith Trucking reached out to her about a partnership through the transportation company’s participation in Truckers against Trafficking (TAT), a nonprofit that “exists to educate, equip, empower and mobilize members of the trucking and busing industries to combat human trafficking,” according to the group’s website.

The TAT self-description also stated, “Truckers Against Trafficking recognizes that members of the trucking and busing industries are invaluable in the fight against this heinous crime. As the eyes and ears of our nation’s highways, you are in a unique position to make a difference and close loopholes to traffickers who seek to exploit our transportation system for their personal gain. This site has been created to inform members of the trucking and busing industries, and other travelers of the basic issues involved in human trafficking and a summary of ways you can help. We invite you to travel through this website and learn how you can join this worthy cause and save lives.”

Wilson said of James R. Smith Trucking, “They contacted me, which was fantastic!  Amber Heaton, she actually contacted Amy Smith at (Cullman County) DHR, because they wanted to partner with the task force- the Truckers against Trafficking.  And she contacted me; we talked. They want to do a video, and they wanted the video out for today; it really was a little short notice, but we got it together; we went down there yesterday.”

To see the video, visit www.facebook.com/JAMESRSMITHTRUCKING/videos/2179594122105129/UzpfSTg3MDU....

With the video, the trucking company posted this statement:

Today is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.  We are so grateful for Kathy Wilson, Chairperson of the Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force (CCHTTF), and that she took the time to meet with us and go over some important information to help us do our part in ending human trafficking.  We look forward to further educating our employees, and our partnership with the CCHTTF.

Be sure to follow Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force, Truckers Against Trafficking, and check our page frequently this month for more information on what we can all do to aid in wiping out this epidemic.

Wilson continued, “They have actually taken one of their trucks and wrapped it in ‘Real superheroes don’t wear capes.’  Truckers Against Trafficking, their motto is ‘Everyday Heroes.’ That’s what they’re going for with their campaign, so it kind of ties in together.  

“While I was there, I had told them that I’ve been wanting to do a public service announcement kind of video--just an informational video--but I want it to be something that’s local.  And they’ve have gotten tons of suggestions for some things to do to try to get that rolling. I want to use local people, I want to use local surroundings, because the way that you reach people is local.  Our people don’t want to hear about California, and so you bring something local. And so that’s in the works.

“They (James R. Smith) were extremely receptive to partnering with us, with anything we do.  Almost all their employees are trained with Truckers Against Trafficking. At our last task force meeting, that was one of the things that we talked about was community partners, you know, trying to pull them in with us, so that we could do things together.  And they’re our first, so I was pretty excited! They’re eager, they understand the problem, they understand that it’s here, and they themselves want to raise awareness, just like we do. So it’s worked out really good, really good.”

State summit coming up; Wilson asked to sit on panel

Wilson has been asked by the state task force to sit on a panel at this year’s Alabama Human Trafficking Summit in Montgomery on Feb. 8.  This week shows their choice to have been a wise one, as Wilson’s panel will discuss community awareness.

Reflecting back over the week on Friday, Wilson said, “The community support this year has been overwhelming, absolutely overwhelming.  I could not be any more pleased with how our January awareness month has started. And we plan to keep going, continue to raise awareness, until there is no longer a need.”

For more information on the Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force, visit www.facebook.com/Cullman-County-Human-Trafficking-Task-Force-87058509635....

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  • Cullman County Human Trafficking Task Force Chairperson Kathy Wilson at Karma’s Coffee House on Friday afternoon (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)