William “Bill” Gettis
Taking a Stand in the Fight Against Human Trafficking
Bill Gettis, Chairman of the Savannah Interagency Diversity Council (SIDC)—along with the entire SIDC organization and its Trafficking Planning Committee—have taken a phenomenal stand against human trafficking, gaining worldwide attention due to the Traffick Jam event, which is at the heart of the organization.
Founded in May 2013, the SIDC is composed of members representing various federal, state and local government agencies, along with non-profits, private companies and public universities.
The organization’s mission has been to: “appreciate social diversity in Savannah and promote understanding, tolerance and inclusion of all residents.” It strives to implement community projects and programs that will support those objectives.
“We want to be a positive light, getting people to become more involved in their community,” Bill says.
The SIDC implemented its Trafficking Planning Committee in 2016 to focus on the overall Traffick Jam initiative. It is committed to promoting awareness about the evil of human trafficking in order to bring it to an end while offering hope to victims whose very humanity and lives have been undermined and violated.
“We have a great committee that works well together,” Bill says.
Career of Character
Bill, a Mississippi native, is a career professional in the field of law enforcement and justice. In 1986, he obtained a position in Texas as an intern for the U.S. Department of Defense; afterward, he worked for the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Command in Michigan. He later became director of logistics for the 24th Infantry Division in Ft. Stewart.
Over time, Bill accepted a position with the U.S. Department of Justice as an Immigration and Naturalization Service inspector. Since June 2000, Bill has been an industry operations investigator for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), helping to keep this country safe by ensuring that each commercial and private dealer operates within the parameters of federal law.
A Humbling Honor
On August 18, Bill received the ATF organization’s James E. Little Award in Washington, D.C. following a scrupulous selection process. He was one of few individuals around the country selected for the award after demonstrating a tremendous “concern for people” through unparalleled humanitarianism, social advocacy and community service.
“I’m representing the ATF as someone in the community involved in the fight against human trafficking—an atrocity to humanity. It really was enriching and enlightening. It made me feel that what I’m doing in the community makes a difference,” he comments.
Bill felt humbled that his tireless fight against human trafficking, along with the success of the Savannah Traffick Jam, had been noticed by the ATF.
“It is an ATF award, but the award is for the whole SIDC organization. I have it because of their hard work,” he remarks.
Ending Human Trafficking
With a career dedicated to promoting justice, Bill is passionate about bringing an end to human trafficking. He knows that it starts with community awareness.
“We want to provide awareness. A lot of people think that trafficking only goes on in big cities, but it is happening here,” he says.
The City of Savannah is one of the top tourist destinations in the nation while also hosting famed international events. For instance, the St. Patrick’s Day celebration ushers in countless individuals each year, some with malicious intentions.
“It’s easy for a trafficker to come here and blend in,” Bill says.
Moreover, Savannah has one of the largest ports in the country. Stowaways have often migrated to this country via container ship after being deceitfully promised opportunities of a better life. Instead, they are frequently ensnared in a web of involuntary prostitution, a form of sex trafficking. Further, some individuals have fallen prey to the sinister act through kidnapping. In most cases, sex traffickers exploit young women and girls, some as young as 12 years old.
Traffickers characteristically target people who they feel are easily “pulled into their web,” including individuals they observe to be underprivileged or others they believe to be desperate and alone.
The massive growth of the local area is driving law enforcement officers to ensure that communities are not flooded with trafficking predators. Nonetheless, caring and conscientious residents make all the difference.
“Be more aware. If something doesn’t look right, go with your gut feeling. It can turn out to be nothing at all, or it can be something—someone can be involved in a trafficking situation,” Bill says.
Bill has tremendous gratitude for the SIDC and its Trafficking Planning Committee for their persistence, diligence and commitment.
He, too, appreciates the efforts of Savannah Mayor Van Johnson, who has been supportive of the organization.
“The mayor takes on a big role in assisting us and getting other elected officials involved. It’s good to have his support,” Bill says.
The accomplished humanitarian is thankful for the love of his life, Leidell, his wife of 31 years.
“Her love and support have been unwavering and strong through my ups and downs. She has supported me greatly while I have been leading this organization and during all my time working within the government [sector],” he says.
Bill is grateful for two of his biggest role models: his dad William and his mom Nellie, who passed away on September 5.
“My mom will always be remembered in my heart. Both my parents always inspired me to be the very best that I can be,” he says.
Savannah Traffick Jam
The Savannah Interagency Diversity Council (SIDC) will host the 8th Annual Savannah Traffick Jam on Friday, January 27, 2023, and Saturday, January 28, 2023, at Savannah State University (SSU), as January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Each year, millions of people around the world are bought and sold into forced labor or sexual servitude. The horrible injustice does not discriminate, targeting nearly any demographic.
The Traffick Jam event represents a continuous effort to raise community awareness about the malicious injustice that affects communities around the globe. A law enforcement workshop will be held in SSU’s Howard Jordan Auditorium on Friday, 8 a.m. - 12 p.m., while the main conference will be held at the student union on Saturday, 9 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. The free event is open to the public. Over 40 vendors will participate, and complimentary food and beverages will be provided for attendees.
Sex trafficking has been the focus of several previous Traffick Jam events. However, the 2023 theme is labor trafficking, as many individuals have fallen victim to it over the years, some forced to work without pay; others are coerced to work for despicably low wages or in inhumane conditions.
A labor trafficking survivor will recall their personal experience with the distressing offense. Other speakers include: Dr. Kate Perry, a Georgia Southern University professor and SIDC member, Tammy Hopper, a nationally-renowned human trafficking speaker, Dr. Karen Lambie and Amy Waddell, representatives for Savannah Working Against Human Trafficking (SWAHT), Greg Gilluly and Tania Groover, Assistant U.S. Attorneys, along with Diane McLeod, a Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) Attorney and SIDC member.
“We have some great speakers; they’re top-notch,” SIDC Chairman Bill Gettis says.
Taking a Stand
Those interested in obtaining additional information about the SIDC or the 2023 Traffick Jam may contact the SIDC at: www.thesidc.org / P.O. Box 673 / Savannah, GA 31402. Bill encourages anyone who may be aware of a human trafficking situation to contact their local police department.
Bill Gettis, alongside the SIDC, are taking a relentless stand in the fight against human trafficking.
“People are becoming more aware, but we still have a long way to go. It’s a huge undertaking, but we’re up for the challenge.”