BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBMA) -- Julia Meyers has spent a decade fighting to protect victims of human trafficking. Even she admits the job can be challenging,
"I've been doing this a long time. If i saw someone on the street I wouldn't be able to tell if they were being trafficked or they were a prostitute."
The job of identifying victims often falls on hospital workers and police officers. All patrol officers in the Birmingham Police Department underwent training in January to learn how to recognize victims who often are taught to avoid being noticed.
"Our patrol officers are the number one people to make contact with these victims and if they're trained in being able to recognize then unfortunately a lot of that would go unnoticed," said Sgt. Matthew Self, who commands the department's special victims unit.
I-20 is often referred to as the 'Sex Trafficking Superhighway' by trafficking advocates. The scope of the human trafficking in Alabama has only recently becoming clear. Meyers said a study by the University of Alabama estimates 5,000 victims are trafficked in Alabama each month but only 900 victims are identified each year.
"It's really hard to swallow and hard to believe especially when you realize that 57% (of those identified) are children," said Meyers.
To help authorities identify cases of human trafficking contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733.
The annual Alabama Human Trafficking Summit is this Friday at the Embassy Suites in Montgomery. Click HERE to register.