In observance of January as Human Trafficking Awareness Month, VTA acknowledges our unique role and responsibility as transportation employees to help combat this growing criminal scourge.
Unfortunately, traffickers often utilize public transit buses and trains to move or relocate victims from one place to another to avoid detection or prosecution. Primarily because public buses and trains are seen as more difficult to trace than personal vehicles and the low cost to the trafficker.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), almost every form of human trafficking intersects with public transportation at some point.
Ruth Silver Taube, Human Trafficking Awareness advocate, and expert says: “. “Traffickers often target runaways and homeless youth that shelter at bus stops and transportation hubs, target potential victims on buses, and transport victims to locations where they are trafficked and exploited. Transit workers are in a unique position to identify and assist with the apprehension of human traffickers, and VTA has been in the forefront of efforts to increase awareness of and combat human trafficking.”
For the past seven years, Silver Taube has been a valuable partner in providing innovative training to VTA to assist with identifying and apprehending traffickers and exploiters.
Children and women have been targeted at an increasing rate by traffickers who are using social media and other online platforms to recruit victims and profit from the increased demand for child sexual exploitation materials.
While the pandemic may have forced traffickers to move their operations to alternative online outlets and avenues, VTA remains determined to monitor and prevent the movement and spread of human trafficking within our community.
VTA’s commitment to this responsibility earned a federal grant to help combat this issue, enabling VTA to partner with other community agencies to educate VTA staff as well as our riders on spotting the red flags of human trafficking and how to report any suspicious behavior seen on buses, trains, stations, or stops.
These educational endeavors, paired with planned advancements in technology, are key mechanisms our agency will utilize to stay current in our ever-evolving efforts to thwart human trafficking within our community.