Council approves resolution declaring Birmingham nation’s largest Trafficking Free Zone

Councilor Crystal Smitherman (center), State Rep. Merika Coleman (left) and Mayor Randall Woodfin (right)

Worldwide there are an estimated 4.8 million victims of sex trafficking at any given time. On Tuesday, the Birmingham City Council unanimously approved a resolution making Birmingham the largest Trafficking Free Zone (TFZ) in the country by population.

Here is a copy of the resolution:

Councilor Crystal Smitherman, resolution sponsor, said that, “The sex super-highways of America, I-65 and I-20 intersect in Birmingham, making it a geographical hotbed for human trafficking. The Department of Homeland Security estimates that the commercial sex industry, excluding child trafficking, is a $110 million industry in Birmingham, which is half of their estimate for Atlanta [$220 million]. That stat alone shows how pervasive and far-reaching this issue is, affecting every community and neighborhood throughout the Birmingham metro.”

During the meeting, over a dozen representatives from local organizations gathered around the podium and spoke to the importance of the resolution.

“This was really a community effort,” said Jordan Giddens, community engagement coordinator with the Child Trafficking Solution Project. “As someone who has been personally victimized by a trafficker in this city, it’s honestly a dream come true to have the city take such a vocal stance against this. We are grateful and look forward to working with the City in the future to continue fighting this issue.”

Map of Trafficking Free Zones in the US

According to the U.S Institute Against Human Trafficking, “The (TFZ) program is a community-based initiative to reduce the number of buyers, whose continuous financial investments create an illicit market for traffickers to exploit young victims. The TFZ program is implemented in collaboration with community members and leaders, law enforcement, businesses, schools, healthcare organizations, churches and the media, all while using technology to reach buyers and victims on a massive scale. The program helps communities come together to arrest and prosecute sex buyers instead of the victims who are being sold, educates people on sex trafficking, and uses technology and research to reduce demand.”

Nationally, Alabama is ranked in the top 10 in states with the toughest laws against human trafficking according to a report released earlier this year by the organization Shared Hope International.

Still, Smitherman said there is much more work to be done, and believes Birmingham can play a major role in combatting this form of slavery. “The importance of this resolution is that the City of Birmingham is taking a stand against modern slavery. We are the hub of the Civil Rights Movement and we should lead the charge against human trafficking. We want to send a very clear message that human traffickers are not welcome in our city and our people are not for sale.”

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