By Heather Larson
Earlier this year, professional driver Arian Taylor delivered a load to a Compton, Calif., business at 3:30 a.m. Before he could exit the parking lot, a 19-year-old woman knocked on his cab door. When he opened it, she told him an older male acquaintance had tried to force her into prostitution, and when she refused, he got mad and dumped her there. She didn’t have any money or identification. This human trafficking victim just wanted to get home to Nevada, but she didn’t know how.
Taylor gave the young woman water and promised to help her get home. When he held up his phone to dial the National Human Trafficking Hotline number, he noticed the two Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) stickers on his window. She must have seen them and thought he could help her. The hotline people handled the rest, returning the woman home safely. Any bus driver could have found him or herself in a similar situation. That’s why the ABA has decided to train its drivers on Busing on the Lookout (BOTL), which follows the same model as TAT.
Recruiters for human trafficking—another name for modern slavery—use physical force, fraud, and coercion to make an individual work or perform commercial sex acts. According to the Polaris Project, more than 10,600 victims of human trafficking were identified in 2017. There are thousands more who have not yet been identified.
“Given the clandestine nature of the crime, there’s a dearth of empirical data on trafficking,” said Kimberly Mehlman-Orozco, Ph.D., an expert on human trafficking.
This crime knows no geographic boundaries, and it has been reported in all 50 states and Canada. Chief Dave Lorenzen, head of the Iowa Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Enforcement Agency and a proponent of BOTL, claims there are 21 million victims globally.
“We need more eyes out there who may see a transaction or notice something off,” said Lorenzen. “Every bus company should take this on and get trained.”
BOTL can provide extra eyes and ears for law enforcement. The training consists of watching a 30-minute video designed to alert drivers to the characteristics often shown by the victims. After viewing the video, drivers are given wallet cards to carry with them reminding them of what to look for and a number to call if they spot something unusual.
In the next several issues of The Insider, we’ll dispel some of the myths surrounding human trafficking, talk about the characteristics victims have, and look at the hopes for BOTL from different perspectives, including law enforcement, schools, and public transit.
Heather Larson writes about a variety of business issues from her office in Tacoma, Wash.