By Heather Larson
Human traffickers often recruit vulnerable individuals, especially minors and young adults, in bus terminals and at bus stops. They also transport their victims on buses.
These criminals count on bus-industry employees not knowing the signs and symptoms of human trafficking. Whether you work in the tour and travel industry, or for public transportation, charters, or a school district, you can help put a stop to this horrific crime. In fact, some bus drivers have already made a difference in human trafficking.
Several drivers who took the free Busing on the Lookout (BOTL) training have recognized characteristics in their passengers that set off internal alarms and have called law enforcement. These calls have resulted in removing victims from trafficking situations and getting them the help they needed.
Remember professional driver Kevin Kimmel from our May 21 Insider Exclusive? Kimmel helped a young woman in Virginia escape from the traffickers who had beaten, starved, tortured, raped, and sold her for commercial sex. He assisted in putting her traffickers behind bars for more than 40 years. This illustrates what a mobile army can do when it recognizes a bad situation and calls the Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888 and/or law enforcement.
Although everyone involved in the BOTL program has the same far-reaching goal—to eliminate human trafficking—getting there requires a series of smaller steps.
Trans-Bridge Lines Inc.’s Operations Director Mark Ertel hopes his company’s dedication to BOTL results in its drivers developing an acute awareness of what’s going on around them—and that they know how to handle a situation once they recognize someone may be in trouble.
“Drivers see stuff we never see,” said David Lorenzen, chief of Iowa Motor Vehicle Enforcement, noting that, in Iowa, they want to make sure that:
- Bus terminals are supplied with BOTL materials
- Companies are encouraged to train their employees and display signage
- School bus drivers receive training with BOTL materials
- Every CDL issued or renewed comes with a Truckers Against Trafficking or BOTL wallet card
Lorenzen also promises to work with anyone who wants to play a role in stopping trafficking—no matter what state they live in. “If you reach out to us, we will get you trained,” he assured.
Empowering all members of the bus industry with information and equipping them with the knowledge they need to call and report a potential trafficking situation is what BOTL is about, said Program Director Annie Sovcik.
Heather Larson writes about a variety of business issues from her office in Tacoma, Wash.