Pandemic fails to stop human trafficking

by Abdul Latheef

DALLAS, Texas – Covid-19 had no impact on human trafficking, and cases have continued to rise during the pandemic, Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) said Wednesday.

“The (U.S.) National Human Trafficking Hotline has actually reported a steady increase of calls. So, we are not seeing any type of decline in trafficking,” said Molly Griffiths, corporate engagement manager at TAT.

“Unfortunately, that was even true during the height of the lockdown when we were all quarantined,” Griffiths said at a webinar on human trafficking, hosted by Omnitracs.

TAT
Molly Griffiths, corporate engagement manager at TAT, speaks during Wednesday’s webinar. Also seen is Amy Barzdukas, chief marketing officer at Omnitracs. (Screen grab)

Human trafficking affects millions of people worldwide. Victims are of every age, race, gender, background, citizenship and immigration status. A majority of them are women and children.

In the U.S., some are trafficked within their own communities, while others are transported to new locations using America’s roadways, airways, railways and waterways.

Last year, the U.S. government banned drivers convicted of human trafficking from operating a commercial motor vehicle.

“We are going after the hearts and minds of folks to raise up a mobile army of transportation professionals to assist law enforcement…”

– Molly Griffiths, corporate engagement manager at TAT.

TAT, which was founded in 2009, is playing a crucial role in the fight against human trafficking. It expanded to Canada in September 2019, and also operates in Mexico.

TAT-trained truck drivers help law enforcement to rescue victims.

“We are going after the hearts and minds of folks to raise up a mobile army of transportation professionals to assist law enforcement in the recognition and reporting of human trafficking so that we can assist in the recovery of victims and the arrest of perpetrators,” Griffiths said.

She said training is offered at no charge to companies.

As of September, there were more 933,000 certified truckers in the U.S. alone.

TAT data also show that 2,625 calls were made into the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline – this does not include those made to local authorities or 911.

These calls have generated 694 cases of human trafficking, and identified 1,278 victims.

TAT
Source: TAT

Griffiths said traffickers typically use force, fraud and coercion to lure their victims.

She said TAT’s goals are to saturate trucking and related industries with TAT training material; partner with law enforcement and government agencies to facilitate investigation; and, marshal the resources of TAT partners to combat the crime.

She said truck drivers could provide extra set of eyes and ears for law enforcement because they are often in areas where they may come across the victims.

In urging more companies to join the fight against trafficking, Griffiths said people can be trained quickly.

“In less than half an hour, your folks can be trained on how to spot trafficking and really have an impact with their day-to-day jobs.”

Last year, TAT received the Presidential Award for its extraordinary work to combat human trafficking.

Amy Barzdukas, chief marketing officer at Omnitracs, praised its efforts.

“This is something that we feel as a company very strongly about, and are so supportive of the work that you are doing,” she said.

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