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The Transportation Industry’s Role in the Fight Against Human Trafficking

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In its March-April 2022 issue, the Transportation Research Board‘s Transportation Research News (PDF) opens with two articles on human trafficking. Traffickers often take advantage of insecure public transportation, particularly in targeting indigenous women reliant on it. Rural transportation planners and service providers can take steps to increase awareness of trafficking, improve safety for vulnerable passengers, and see predators brought to justice.

Indigenous women are particularly vulnerable, their resources and options restricted by generational trauma. Limited access to banking or reliable transportation creates the risk of being stranded due to a lack of cash, and traffickers make a point of preying on isolated communities.

Federal, state, and local transportation leaders can play a part in preventing this horrific crime. Some leaders have assembled toolkits to train in both recognition of warning signs and appropriate collaboration with the authorities, with this one cited in the first TR News article. The TR News second article describes a number of possible indicators including:

  • Adults who are not in possession of their passports or documentation, and/or are not permitted to speak for themselves.
  • People lacking knowledge of their destination or who will be meeting them.
  • People wearing clothing inappropriate for the climate, which may conceal signs of abuse.
  • Controlling, verbally abusive, or physically abusive behavior.
  • Fearful or anxious behavior. Signs of malnourishment, abuse, or exhaustion. Limited eye contact.
  • Individuals carrying multiple cell phones.

Professor Margo Hill’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women: Traffickers Use Transportation to Exploit the Vulnerable. How Can the Industry Stop Them and Kristen Joyner’s Not on My Bus! Not on My Train! Not in My Community! Tips for Spotting and Reporting Suspected Trafficking can be read at this link (pdf).

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