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ATA Joins with National Organization to Combat Human Trafficking
American Trucking Associations announced recently that it has joined together with Truckers Against Trafficking to raise awareness about human trafficking among professional truck drivers and the trucking industry and educate them on how they can help fight against the crime.
“There are over 3.1 million truck drivers who travel over 408 billion miles each year,” said ATA Chairman Dan England, chairman of C.R. England Inc., Salt Lake City. “We are asking our motor carriers to include this important information in their training programs and to work with their customers and communities to help combat the problem. These professionals are the eyes and ears of the nation’s highways, and with knowledge and guidance, they can make a big difference and save lives.”
By joining with TAT, ATA hopes to not only raise awareness of this problem, but to educate the industry on what to look for if they suspect a human trafficking incident, what specific information is needed for local law enforcement and to how to report any suspicions.
“As we travel the country we see a lot of different things, from cars in distress on the side of the highway to distracted driving,” said America’s Road Team Captain Dion Saiz. “Professional drivers like me have a family and want everyone to be safe. Whether it is being safe around trucks or in this case being in a safe environment, we’ll do what we can to help end human trafficking.”
The Department of Justice estimates between 100,000 and 300,000 children are at risk every year to traffickers in the United States and that many children, teens and young women are sold into the sex trade.
“Traffickers are continually moving their victims from place to place, for a variety of reasons, along our nation’s highways and roads,” said Kendis Paris, national director of Truckers Against Trafficking. “They ‘sell’ their victims at truck stops, travel plazas and rest stops, because they’re convenient; transient populations frequent them who are less likely to “rescue” the victims; they have to use them anyway to buy gas and eat; and it’s easy money and a good way to break in their victims for other things.”
A number of ATA affiliates already work closely with TAT, including state trucking associations in California, Colorado, Idaho, Minnesota, Nevada and Wisconsin.
TAT provides a number of resources for the industry, including a wallet card with guidelines and a telephone number to call. They provide a training DVD, webinars and other outreach materials.
TAT is a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to educating, equipping, empowering and mobilizing the trucking industry to fight human trafficking. Its resources include a website, a trucking-industry-specific training DVD, webinars, posters, speakers/trainers and more. More information is available at www.truckersagainsttrafficking.com.
American Trucking Associationsis the largest national trade association for the trucking industry. Through a federation of 50 affiliated state trucking associations and industry-related conferences and councils, ATA is the voice of the industry America depends on most to move our nation’s freight. Follow ATA on Twitteror on Facebook.Good stuff. Trucks Bring It!
Your Most Important Call Organization Enlists Truckers to Help Stop Human Trafficking
At this year’s Great American Trucking Show in Dallas, I attended a press conference by a nonprofit organization called Truckers Against Trafficking. The premiere of TAT’s documentary was sobering and eye-opening.
The documentary centered around a 15-year-old Ohio girl named Shari, who, along with her 14-year-old cousin, was kidnapped and forced in the sex slave business. Their story is gut-wrenching, but it is far from being an isolated case.
Most of us think of human trafficking as being a problem in third-world countries. But each year in this country, tens of thousands of kids are victims of human trafficking. It is a $32 billion criminal enterprise. The average age for human trafficking victims is 12 years old. The life expectancy of a child after being force into prostitution is less than 10 years.
Some of these victims are kidnapped, like Shari and her cousin, while others are runaways or children with low self-esteem who are seduced by members of trafficking networks. These children are controlled using threats, drugs, beatings and rapes.
FBI Supervisory Special Agent Evan Nicolas of the Crimes Against Children unit, says in the documentary it’s a mistake to think that most young children working as prostitutes are doing it willingly. “I don’t think anyone wants to be beaten and raped on a daily basis or beaten in the most extreme ways … I don’t think there is any willingness, especially of your child victims.”
Human trafficking networks and child prostitution rings force their victims into a transient lifestyle to try to keep their victims from being detected by law enforcement. This makes truckstops, rest areas and other venues ideal places to shop their victims out because the average person is used to seeing people come and go on a regular basis.
That is why Truckers Against Trafficking was organized in 2009. The founders wanted to raise awareness of the problem and enlist the help of truckers, truckstops, trucking companies and law enforcement to rescue victims and curb the human trafficking epidemic.
“The trucking industry is in a unique position because [truckers] are often in areas where pimps will bring in their victims to be prostituted out,” Nicolas says, “those being truckstops, gas stations and things of that nature.”
TAT has been instrumental in getting the word out not only through documentaries, websites, posters at truckstops and the media, but also through thousands of wallet-sized cards the organization hands out to truckers. These cards list signs to help identify potential human trafficking victims and the national hotline number
(888-373-7888) to report suspicious activity.
“What we are asking the trucking industry to do is become aware of this issue and then take action on it,” says Kendis Paris, the national coordinator for TAT. “We primarily want truck drivers to become aware of it because they are the eyes and ears of the nation’s highways.” And it works. Shari, now married with two children, was rescued because a trucker called law enforcement and reported he saw her and other young girls at a truckstop and thought their actions were suspicious. That trucker’s one phone call not only saved Shari’s life and that of her cousin, but also helped rescue seven other child victims, break up a 13-state prostitution ring and put 31 criminals behind bars.
And since 2003 – when the Innocence Lost National Initiative, a partnership with the FBI, Department of Justice Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children was formed – more than 1,200 other child victims have been rescued.
Randall-Reilly Publishing is committed to help spread the word about this issue. Back in April, RPM for Truckers magazine featured an article about Human Trafficking, and now Truckers News (another sister publication to Pro Trucker) has partnered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to help find missing children. For more information, visit www.truckersnews.com, where the database is continuously updated.
TAT has a wonderful website, www.truckersagainsttrafficking.com, that contains a wealth of information about human trafficking, videos and other resources that we would like for all our readers to visit.
We encourage everyone to learn more about this horrible crime network and to become vigilant when on roadways. And please don’t make assumptions about potential prostitution involving underage children.
They didn’t get into the situations they are in by themselves. They are someone’s child, grandchild or sibling that someone is probably trying to find. Put yourself in their shoes and make a call if the situation doesn’t look right. It could very well be the difference between life and death of a child.
Randy Grider is editor of Truckers News. He is the son of a career trucker and holds a CDL. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org•