As we ring in a new year, we also recognize January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, a time to raise awareness about the crime of human trafficking and to support survivors.
Human trafficking, or modern-day slavery, has been reported in all 50 states, and the number of victims in the United States is estimated in the hundreds of thousands. Around the world, it is estimated that there are over 40 million slaves today.
While illegal, human trafficking is a booming business. Traffickers recruit out of our schools, online, in shopping malls, as well as the streets, and other locations. A large percentage of the people trafficked are women and children. And they need to be identified and recovered.
Truckers Against Trafficking, or TAT, recognizes that members of the trucking, bus, and energy industries are invaluable in the fight against this heinous crime. As the eyes and ears of our nation’s highways, you are in a unique position to make a difference and close loopholes for traffickers who seek to exploit our transportation system for their personal gain.
TAT was founded to inform members of the trucking, bus and energy industries, and other travelers, of the basic issues involved in human trafficking and educate on ways you can help. It began through an act of faith, combined with a really smart idea, from Lyn Leebrug, who grew up at a motel owned by her parents in El Paso, Texas. The motel was frequented by truck drivers, and Lyn thought: Truck drivers can be the front lines of identifying human trafficking. And, she was right.
TAT has grown considerably since its founding in 2009, as awareness for this heinous crime has been raised. Our mission is to educate, equip, empower, and mobilize the members of the trucking, bus, and energy industries to combat human trafficking. Our goal is to build the largest army of transportation individuals dedicated to discovering and disrupting human trafficking. Today there are over 1.2 million industry professionals registered and trained by Truckers Against Trafficking.
Professional drivers have made thousands of calls into the National Human Trafficking Hotline and to law enforcement. These have resulted in hundreds of cases and over 1,300 victims identified by truckers on the road. In the last 5 years, 41 percent of calls from truck drivers have been cases in which victims identified were minors.
Human trafficking can be found anywhere. One truck driver pulled into a truck stop and noticed a beat-up RV. The driver noticed a man going from the convenience store to the RV. The man knocked on the RV’s door and had a conversation with someone inside. The man then went back to the convenience store, returned to the RV and went inside. Ten minutes later, the man exited the RV. Then the truck driver saw a girl try to look out the window, only to have her head forcefully pulled away. The truck driver called law enforcement. When they arrived on the scene, a man and women were found inside the RV, as well as a 20-year-old female who had been coerced from her home in Iowa just 18 days earlier. In those 18 days, the couple beat and burned the victim and sold her for sex. The two traffickers are currently serving sentences of 40 and 41 years.
This shows the power the trucking industry can make in fighting the crime of human trafficking.
Without the support, commitment, and actions of truck drivers, Truckers Against Trafficking would cease to exist, and the gains made against human trafficking in the United States would take a leap backward.
The red flags of trafficking are clear enough to spot when you know where to look. They include:
- A person’s lack of knowledge of his/her whereabouts; not in control of ID/passport
- Restricted or controlled communication — not allowed to speak for self
- CB chatter about “commercial company” or flashing lights signaling “buyer” location
- Acknowledgment of a pimp and making a quota
- A van or RV that seems out-of-place out by trucks; a vehicle dropping someone off at a truck and picking the person up 15-20 minutes later
Even a gut feeling can be reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline — 888-373-7888. If you are witnessing a crime in progress, call 911.