Mayor Mike Ottens of Fulton, Illinois, recently signed a proclamation to designate the city a TraffickingFree Zone, a program created by the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking (USIAHT) and locally promoted by the Sisters of St. Francis Franciscan Peace Center.
Proclaiming a community a TraffickingFree Zone encourages residents to come together to arrest and prosecute sex buyers instead of the victims who are being sold, educates officials and citizens about the crime of sex trafficking, and uses technology to reduce demand.
The City of Fulton is the first city in Illinois to publicly and officially declare that human trafficking will not be tolerated in the community and the Fulton Police Department is the first law enforcement agency in the state to train all of its officers in effectively identifying and responding to crimes of human trafficking.
"The city of Fulton is sending a clear message to sex traffickers and buyers that human trafficking will not be tolerated in our community. It also sends a message to our most vulnerable citizens that we are watching. City employees and the police department as well as our businesses and churches are looking out for you," said Mayor Mike Ottens. "We are proud to partner with the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking to declare our city a TraffickingFree Zone and serve notice to all potential sex traffickers and buyers in Fulton and the surrounding area that our most vulnerable citizens will not be bought and sold. We thank the Sisters of St. Francis for bringing this program to our attention and encouraging Fulton to sign on!"
USIAHT's program focuses on raising awareness and reducing the demand for sex-trafficked victims through collaboration with community members and leaders, law enforcement, businesses, schools, healthcare organizations, churches, and the media. Professionals are equipped with awareness resources, strategies to reduce the risk of human trafficking, and knowledge of how technology is used in trafficking situations. When these sectors are activated and working in unison, the TraffickingFree Zone community can expect to see a significant decline in demand.
"All of our officers and staff now have the tools to identify traffickers and buyers, uncover the crime, implement second- and third-level questioning procedures for traffic stops and other contacts," said Chief of Police Nicholas Neblung. "Thanks to the training provided by USIAHT, our department is better educated on types of traffickers and buyers, victim recruitment and grooming strategies, indicators for identifying victims, and the profile of sex buyers.
The Sisters of St. Francis of Clinton, Iowa, Associates, and Sojourners, oppose all forms of human trafficking which violate basic human rights and exploit vulnerable people and put forth their efforts to end this heinous practice. The Clinton Franciscans, in the spirit of Saint Francis and Saint Clare, are called to contemplation and continual conversion and are sent as instruments of God's peace. They promote active nonviolence and peacemaking, seek justice for marginalized people, and care for creation.
Anyone interested in joining the Sisters' Anti-Trafficking committee should contact Lori Freudenberg, Community Outreach Director of the Franciscan Peace Center, 563-242-7611, or visit www.ClintonFranciscans.com.