“There have been five shootings in the last three months,” Watson said concerning incidents across the nation. “Four out of the five schools had school resource officers. Of those four, three of the school resource officers were out whether it was due to a snow day, sick day or court day. We are blessed in Bradley County to have SROs. However, my district in Copper Hill, if a situation occurred, it takes at least 20 minutes to get around that river road to get to the high school.”
According to Watson, several school administrators and directors contacted him with safety concerns. They reportedly asked for Watson to make it possible to hire security at their schools. In response, the School Security Act was formed.
Watson reiterated a law often needs a base before it can be built up or altered in future years.
“The governor got on board with this bill and he allotted $34 million that is going to be routed up to the DEP program,” Watson said. “It is going to allow schools to hire additional officers and use that money for additional security management systems.”
Continued Watson, “... Believe it or not, but the National Rifle Association, the Teachers Education Association and the Professional Education Association — you had your very right group and your very leftist group — they all came together to support this bill.”
He also warned the Kiwanians of human trafficking going on in Cleveland.
“It is different than prostitution. It is the enslavement of young ladies, and even young males, whose services are sold through a ... boss,” Watson said. “... Believe it or not, [I was told] to go to a certain website. Within 60 seconds I can have a call girl and get a location here in Bradley County.”
The back pages of Craigslist were cited as one place people go to sell their sexual services. According to Watson, human trafficking is often dressed up like prostitution. He said this makes it difficult to find and prosecute for human trafficking.
Boys and girls involved in the sex trade are often chosen at a very young age. Watson described an older man going around the neighborhood until he spots a boy or girl in need of a friend. Their relationship begins with the man asking the young child or teen’s name. Often the man, or in some cases woman, will reportedly hand the youth some money to grab a bite to eat.
“They start that friendship and then it moves to the next step. They ask them to the movies,” Watson said. “These are 30-, 40-year-old men who will mess with these 13-, 14-, 16-year-old girls. Then it turns into sexual favors, then it turns into, ‘Hey you want to make $100 tonight?’”
According to Watson, the man will then tell the youth about “a buddy” who is willing to pay $180 for 30 minutes of their time.
“TBI did a report this last year which says we have human sex trafficking big time,” Watson said. “The reason it is hard to fight is, jump into the car and go up to Exit 49 and take a left and there is a prime example of human trafficking going on in a commercial building.”
He said 12 bills have been designed and passed to crack down on human trafficking.
Bruce Bradford, Kiwanis member, thanked Watson for his work.
“I am very much appreciative that you are always available,” Bradford said. “Whether people agree with you or not, they have always been able to get ahold of you every time I’ve heard. That is great to have as my representative, and I appreciate that.”