Truckers educated about human trafficking
Jan 27, 2013 (The Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Trucking is an immense industry employing some 9 million people across the country.
Kendis Paris, the national director of Truckers Against Trafficking, believes these people will be in it for the long haul in the effort to eradicate human trafficking.
"It's recognizing that truckers are the eyes and ears of our highways," Paris said. "This is a crime that literally comes knocking on their doors."
The organization works to have its anti-trafficking training video shown at trucking schools and at the nation's 360,000 trucking companies. It also asks companies to provide its drivers with wallet cards listing the phone number for the national human trafficking hotline.
It also has partnerships with with TA/Petro and Pilot/Flying J truck stops to post and distribute information about human trafficking, Paris said.
"Really what we're asking the trucking industry to do is, if you see a minor working the lot or evidence of pimp control, call the NHTRC hotline," Paris said.
The approach is working.
Between December 2007 and October 2012, the hotline received 469 calls from truckers. That number increased significantly between 2009 and 2012. Truckers now rank eighth in the type of caller reporting potential human trafficking.
Programs modeled after Truckers Against Trafficking have started in Canada and Brazil, and Paris has received word that the organization's anti-trafficking video has been used in training in 22 countries in Europe.
Ultimately, Paris said it would be great to the model employed across all modes of transportation. "It's a matter of taking an industry and turning them into abolitionists," she said.
One trucker-abolitionist recently called the hotline after a young girl, estimated to be no more than 14 years old, approached his truck to offer sexual services. The girl told the trucker that she was from another state and wanted to go home.
He called the hotline, which advised him to call 911, as well, for immediate assistance. Shortly after the call, five police cars pulled up and several men were arrested. The young girl was a runaway from another state and the man who was with her was arrested on kidnapping and other charges.
Paris said the program is all about turning truckers like this one into everyday heroes.
"When these men and women choose to look beyond 'lot lizard' stereotypes and recognize that victims of human trafficking don't need to be run off lots -- but helped instead -- they truly step into the identity of everyday heroes so needed along our nation's highways," she said.
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