In January, Ohio will become the first state to require prospective truckers to be trained to spot warning signs for human trafficking before they get licensed.
Training will consist of materials provided by industry nonprofit Truckers Against Trafficking, along with the Ohio State Department of Public Safety, ushered in the new requirement.
“What we’re doing is another piece toward the goal, which is driving human trafficking out of Ohio, because it’s going to be too dangerous for the bad guys to work here,” the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s Mike Crispen told trucking publication Transport Topics.
Kendis Paris, executive director of Truckers Against Trafficking, said the training program is based on guidelines first set up in Iowa to mobilize truckers to combat human trafficking. However, in Iowa, truckers were not required to undergo training as a pathway to becoming licensed. That model — which does not include DVD training — calls for spreading anti-trafficking literature and hotline numbers at truck stops and collecting data on interdiction stops. (An interdiction stop is a law enforcement stop designed to look for criminal activity.)
Here’s a trailer for the video training Ohio truckers will soon watch. One trucker will likely break your heart, as he remembers the time a trafficker advertised a haul of underage girls over the CB Radio.
“We’re still on this learning curve where people look at prostitution and think it’s just prostitution when it’s actually sex trafficking,” Paris said. “There’s a lot of wrong ideas out there. We want a truck driver to come out of this training feeling empowered to actually know what to do.”
More than 1,200 truckers have called Truckers Against Trafficking’s special hotline (1-888-373-7888) since 2009 and group leaders say it’s led to 400 potential criminal cases with 692 victims, including 234 minors.
The exact number of human trafficking victims is hard to pin down. Emily Pasnak-Lapchick of UNICEF’s End Trafficking says there are an estimated 20-30 million victims of trafficking worldwide, including 5.5 million children. The United Nations, meanwhile, found in 2012 there were around 2.4 million victims of human trafficking. The sex trade captures media attention for its own special sort of cruelty and exploitation. But an equal amount of people are trapped in commercial industries ranging from agriculture to construction to mining to domestic service to working in nail salons.
UNICEF has received trafficking reports from all 50 states but the highest volume comes from California, Texas, New York, and Florida.
“The American view of the issue is narrow,” Pasnak-Lapchick said. “They think of it as sex trafficking, not labor trafficking. But on a global scale, about 68 percent of cases are labor trafficking. Typically it’s hidden in plain view. You have people taking care of children in homes of parents working long hours, children recruited into traveling sales crews, people working in restaurants.
Sex trafficking victims in the United States tend to be citizens and labor victims more likely to be internationals.
Sadly, many casualties of the sex industry are arrested as prostitutes rather than treated as victims. A federal law passed in 2000 requires anyone younger than 18 arrested in sex work be treated as a victim rather than pushed through the justice system, but states are still catching up.
Paris said several other states she declined to identify are considering adopting the training depending on the program’s success among Ohio’s potential truckers.
“This is a great entry point and a key population to have trained in terms of the eyes and the ears of our nation’s highways,” Paris said.