With high-profile Amber Alerts making recent headlines across Tennessee and throughout the United States, the issue of Human Trafficking is one that requires our immediate attention. NATSO, a national trade association representing the travel plaza and truckstop industry, has partnered with the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Blue Campaign to raise awareness and combat Human Trafficking.
M&W Transportation is committed to our community and to the safety of our children and vulnerable populations. Fighting human trafficking and teaching people about this devastating crime is especially important within the trucking and transportation community. Commercial drivers, truck stop employees, and travel plaza employees can work together to form an effective defense against human trafficking.
Facts About Human Trafficking
The US Government and the National Institute of Justice defines human trafficking as:
- Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.
- The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.
On its website, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation notes that on average, in the US, a child is bought or sold for sex every two minutes and that the average age of victims is 13. Human trafficking is the second-fastest growing criminal industry, second only to drug trafficking.
In a 2011 report written in collaboration with Vanderbilt University, “Tennessee Human Sex Trafficking and its Impact on Children and Youth,” TBI Director noted that “The results of the study are shocking. Human trafficking and sex slavery in Tennessee is more common than previously believed possible…Tennessee, simply because of its geographical position to Atlanta and the large number of interstates that cross the state, is conducive to a traveling business.”
Local organizations like End Slavery Tennessee envision a “slave-free Tennessee” and offer services including training and education, advocacy, and prevention services throughout the area.
How the Travel Plaza and Truck Stop Industry is Helping to End Human Slavery
NATSO’s mission is to “advance the success of truckstop and travel plaza members by delivering solutions to members’ challenges and achieving the public policy goals of the truckstop and travel plaza industry.” Its partnership with the DHS is the organization’s most recent step towards providing solutions and supporting its members.
Like End Slavery Tennessee, NATSO offers online courses to help employees at travel plaza and truck stops better recognize and respond appropriately to potential cases of human trafficking.
In a recent article, The Trucker.com interviewed NATSO Foundation President Lisa Mullings and wrote that “This partnership marks the latest chapter in the NATSO Foundation’s multi-pronged anti-human trafficking initiative aimed at creating awareness and educating the truckstop and travel plaza industry to fight human trafficking along America’s Interstate Highway System.”
Ms. Mullings was quoted in the article, saying, “As an industry that caters to millions of travelers every year, truckstops and travel plazas and their employees are in a key position to help identify and stop human trafficking along America’s highway system. Sadly, human trafficking has been reported across all modes of transportation and in many legitimate businesses that unknowingly are used for this illicit activity. Truckstops and travel plazas are effectively creating the equivalent of a Neighborhood Watch program so that our industry is equipped to help if we encounter a victim of this horrible crime.”
The NATSO Foundation in 2016 launched an online course titled “The Role of Truckstops in Combating Human Trafficking” to help truckstops and travel plazas train their staff in recognizing and responding to suspected incidents of human trafficking. The course is available on the NATSO Foundation’s website free of charge so that any member of the truckstop and travel plaza industry can leverage this educational resource. The course can be accessed at www.natso.com/onlinelearning.
Indicators of Human Trafficking
DHS encourages individuals to be aware of the key indicators of human trafficking. Awareness is the first step in identifying potential victims. Here are a few of the key indicators to look for, as identified by the DHS:
- Is the person disoriented or confused, or showing signs of mental or physical abuse?
- Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing?
- Is the person fearful, timid, or submissive?
- Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep, or medical care?
- Is the person often in the company of someone to whom he or she defers? Or someone who seems to be in control of the situation, e.g., where they go or who they talk to?
- Does the person appear to be coached on what to say?
- Does the person have freedom of movement?
To join a team of caring transportation professionals, contact M&W Transportation.
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