Watson to visit White House
by By DAVID DAVIS Managing Editor
Dec 02, 2012 | 1399 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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State Rep. Eric Watson is part of a 25-person contingent invited to the White House by the Office of the Vice President as part of the discussion on ridding the world of human trafficking.

Watson will talk about how Tennessee is cracking down on the modern slave trade Dec. 6.

The discussion is part of President Barack Obama’s effort to eliminate human trafficking announced at the Clinton Global Initiative in September.

The president said then, “It ought to concern every person, because it is a debasement of our common humanity.

“It ought to concern every community, because it tears at our social fabric. It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets.

“It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime. I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name — modern slavery.”

Study after study shows the United States is facing an epidemic of human trafficking. States like Tennessee, which serve as the intersection for numerous interstate highways and have multiple regional airports, are targeted by the perpetrators of the crime.

Watson was asked to detail the challenges facing Tennessee as well as how state and local law enforcement agencies have worked together to stop and prevent human trafficking.

Modern-day slavery is defined in federal statutes as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person to perform labor or a commercial sex act through force, fraud, or coercion.”

Watson, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is a leading voice for equipping law enforcement with resources needed to combat the heinous crime.

“Tennessee, in many ways, is a hot spot for this particularly disturbing form of illegal activity — we’ve got to put a stop to it,” he said.

“I’m hopeful this meeting at the White House will serve as a jumping off point for increased cooperation between all levels of law enforcement so we can do just that.”

A 2011 report on trafficking in Tennessee by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation found 85 percent of Tennessee counties have investigated at least one human sex trafficking case in the 24 months prior to the report.

Seventy-two percent of the total counties reported at least one case of minor human sex trafficking and 16 reported 50 cases and eight reported more than 100 cases of human sex trafficking involving minors.

Since that report, the General Assembly passed tough new laws against human trafficking and the TBI has added a training segment on the subject for officers and agents.

“I feel like we are making some real progress, but more has to be done. We’re going to learn about the best practices that are being utilized around the nation at this conference and I intend to bring them back to Tennessee,” he said.

Watson has served the 22nd District that includes Meigs, Polk and part of Bradley counties since 2006. He is a graduate in the inaugural class of the Tennessee Bureau Investigation State Academy, a graduate of Tennessee Sheriffs School, Tennessee Law Enforcement Academy, United States Marshall Service Academy, Glynco, Ga., and earned a professional degree in law enforcement from the University of Tennessee Martin.

“Public safety is the basic function of government,” Watson said. “It is the one function that should transcend party politics.”