Human trafficking is not something that just happens a world away. It happens right here, right now; not only in our cities and towns, but rural areas, too. Human slavery is going on right now in all 50 states. Human trafficking is the modern name for the trade of humans. People are being held against their will in forced labor, sexual slavery, and commercial sexual exploitation.
“The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally, with hundreds of thousands in the United States. The victims of this crime in the U.S. are men and women, adults and children, and foreign nationals and U.S. citizens. As defined by U.S. law, victims of human trafficking can be divided into three populations:
- Children under the age of 18 induced into commercial sex
- Adults (age 18 or over) induced into commercial sex through force, fraud, or coercion
- Children and adults induced to perform labor or services through force, fraud, or coercion*
Washington State Trafficking Prevention is unique in their approach to anti-human trafficking efforts. Through legislative advocacy, professional engagement and community grassroots partnerships volunteers help with Policy initiatives, innovative programs and community Coalitions Against Trafficking. Here in Pierce County there are volunteers fighting trafficking: Pierce County Coalition Against Trafficking [PCCAT] and the Soroptimist Club of Tacoma. The club was an original founder. The monthly meeting of PCCAT is held on the second Tuesday of each month at the Salvation Army – 1110 S Puget Sound Ave, Tacoma WA 98405.
“Nationally, human trafficking is the second-fastest growing crime, and this proves true in Pierce County. The Prosecutor’s Office’s Human Trafficking Unit prosecutes defendants charged with human trafficking, commercial sexual abuse of a minor and promoting prostitution. Most of these cases involve underage girls being sold for sex . . . In recent years, street gangs have moved into human trafficking because it is safer and more lucrative than selling drugs. Unlike their drug supply, gangs view prostitutes as a renewable resource that can be sold over and over again.” – co.pierce.wa.us/4466/Human-Trafficking-Unit
A little over a year ago, our Washington State Patrol invited the organization Truckers Against Trafficking to bring their new mobile exhibit to Pierce County. “The organization Truckers Against Trafficking is leading the fight against trafficking by asking truckers for assistance. Truck producers, trucking companies and many other transportation groups are donating time, money, and energies to help. Truckers can spread the news by placing information on their vehicles and taking individual action when they see potential victims.” – thesubtimes.com/2018/07/01/everyday-heroes-truckers-against-trafficking/
Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) initiated a program called Freedom Drivers, where drivers of transportation companies are recruited to recognize potential trafficking operations and report back with details and assist in the struggle against this modern form of slavery. I met Helen Van Dam, Freedom Drivers Project Director, last year when her truck visited our area. This year my wife Peg and I were invited to a friendly dinner with our friend Jan Runbeck, Past President of Tacoma Soroptimists and her truck driving husband Mike Mowat. This time Helen was not driving traffic to her mobile trafficking exhibit, but meeting with PACCAR for corporate training. PACCAR Inc of Bellevue is one of the largest manufacturers of medium and heavy-duty commercial vehicles in the world. – truckersagainsttrafficking.org/freedom-drivers-project-homepage/
TAT trains drivers of transportation companies to recognize potential trafficking operations and report to the National Human Trafficking Hotline with details and assists in the struggle against this modern form of slavery. I met Helen Van Dam, Freedom Drivers Project Director, last year when her truck visited our area. This year my wife Peg and I were invited to a friendly dinner with our friend Jan Runbeck, Past President of Tacoma Soroptimists and her truck driving husband Mike Mowat. This time Helen was not driving traffic to her mobile trafficking exhibit, but meeting with Zonar Systems (Zonar Systems: Smart Fleet Management Solutions) for corporate training. She is also in town meeting with Kenworth and PACCAR Parts, sponsors of Truckers Against Trafficking. PACCAR Inc of Bellevue is one of the largest manufacturers of medium and heavy-duty commercial vehicles in the world. – truckersagainsttrafficking.org/freedom-drivers-project-homepage/
Helen was excited about TAT’s latest additions to the team against trafficking. In addition to truckers, the organization is now training bus drivers to recognize potential trafficking targets and further prevent the spread of trafficking. Bus companies, school districts, transit, and national transportation providers are coming online to help curb the problems.
Helen revealed the extent of the new program, “Busing on the Lookout (BOTL) has partnered with national, regional and state motorcoach, pupil transportation and public transit associations to get training materials out to bus operators throughout the country. Less than two years after its launch, over 65 private bus companies are BOTL training, including Greyhound and Coach USA/Megabus, the two largest motorcoach operators in North America. Transit agencies in 21 states are BOTL training, with OR and CT adopting BOTL for all transit bus drivers in the state and First Transit, the largest transit contractor in North America, training all of its drivers in 39 states. BOTL is working with pupil transportation partners in 30 states, with IA, KS, IL, TN and MI incorporating BOTL into curriculum that will reach all school bus drivers statewide. In 2019, TAT honored a bus driver and safety director from Lakefront Lines in OH with the Harriet Tubman Award for their role in the recovery of a victim and arrest of a trafficker.”
The Washington State Patrol invited Van Dam and her mobile exhibit to the Washington State Fair in Puyallup this fall, but the exhibit was already scheduled for displays on the east coast. The mobile exhibit reaches out and educates the trucking industry, law enforcement and general public about domestic sex trafficking and what can be done about the problem.
“A study in Chicago found that 56 percent of prostituted women were initially runaway youth and similar numbers have been identified for male populations.”* Truckers Against Trafficking is training drivers and others in the effort to save the lives of individuals and defeat those who would profit from domestic slavery, by recognizing potential problems and reporting them.