Truckers Against Trafficking: The Interview
Posted on Apr 23, 2013
We recently met some of the volunteers from Truckers Against Trafficking (“TAT”) at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky. We were inspired by the work they’re doing and wanted to help spread the word.
We talked to Kendis Paris, the Executive Director at TAT, to find out more about the problem of human trafficking and how they are getting truckers to lead the fight to stop it.
CAD: What is “Truckers Against Trafficking?”
TAT: Truckers Against Trafficking is a 501c3 that exists to educate, equip, empower and mobilize the trucking industry to combat human trafficking as part of their regular jobs. We recognize that truckers are the eyes and ears of our nation’s highways. This crime literally comes knocking on their door and as such, they are in an incredible position to make a significant impact.
CAD: How and why did you get involved in helping fight human trafficking?
TAT: My mother, Lyn Thompson, came up with the original idea for Truckers Against Trafficking when it began as an initiative of our family’s ministry, Chapter 61. Today, TAT is its own nonprofit and as the Executive Director, I am privileged to work with so many fine members of the trucking industry who truly care about the ways traffickers are exploiting victims along our nation’s highways and want to do something to combat it.
CAD: People don’t often think of the US when they think of human trafficking, but the problem is very real and much larger than most people know. Can you give us an idea of just how big this problem is?
TAT: The Department of Justice estimates that anywhere between 100,000 to 300,000 of America’s children are at risk for entering the sex for sale industry every year. And that number does not include foreign nationals or adults. Moreover, in a series of Innocence Lost stings, the FBI identified truck stops and rest stops as one of the places where they found women and children being forced into prostitution.
CAD: One of your goals is to make TAT training material a regular part of training for members of the trucking industry. Are you making progress on that front and if so, what impact is it having?
TAT: Progress is certainly being made as we work with the CVTA (Commercial Vehicle Training Association) and the NAPFTDS (National Association of Publicly Funded Truck Driving Schools) in order to get these materials into the trucking schools so student drivers are trained with this information before they ever get behind the wheel. We also work with as many safety directors of companies as possible in order to have TAT materials become a regular part of training/orientation. We work with the truck stops as well, so that their employees can be trained to identify potential victims of human trafficking, and make the call to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) at 1-888-3737-888 when they believe it’s going on.
We also partner with the state and national trucking associations in order to get the word out there. And the impact is significant. The NHTRC now ranks the trucking industry seventh in the nation in reporting potential sex trafficking tips. The trucking industry was recognized on the Congressional floor in February, and the United Nations just recognized this work among their 100 Best Practices to Combat Human Trafficking on a global scale. But of course, it’s when you read the stories of girls and women being rescued off of lots, and pimps’ being arrested because of the direct intervention of members of the trucking industry that you know the impact is significant.
CAD: What role can truckers play and why do you see them as being vital in the fight?
TAT: Truckers, and the trucking industry on a whole, are vital in this fight because like no other industry, this crime literally comes knocking on their doors. While truck stops and rest stops are not the number one place domestic sex trafficking is taking place – that is most assuredly online at sites like backpage.com – they can play a significant role in helping to rescue victims in transit. If the trucking industry can become fully trained and united behind this work and really seek out the minors who are working the lot, or those under pimp control, then a lot of loopholes that are now left open to traffickers who perhaps work on a circuit, or are transporting a victim from point A to point B and figure they’ll make some money along the way, will be closed. And so TAT also seeks to work with law enforcement in not only facilitating training, but in our coalition builds as well, where we get the general managers of truck stops in the same room with the law enforcement who investigate trafficking cases on their lots. If we can build a rapport between the two groups, and provide extensive training on what to look for, then it is our hope that a pimp who pulls on to that particular lot will only leave in handcuffs, not with more money in his/her pocket.
CAD: What should truckers be looking for? If they notice something suspicious, what should they do, who should they contact?
TAT: We ask truckers, or general managers, or truck stop employees, that if they ever see a minor working the lot, or suspect pimp control (that car pulls onto the lot and three or four girls all get out and begin to work the row, or a car is parked across the street watching a particular person, or there’s a man who you’ve seen walking around earlier with a young woman on the lot as she goes from truck to truck etc.), then please call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-3737-888 and report what you know.
You should also call 911 when you see a trafficking situation taking place right in the moment and a minor is involved, but we ask that you also call the NHTRC as well for a variety of reasons. First, if no one responds to the 911 call, the folks at the hotline are connected with law enforcement all across the country and they will make sure that your tip does not die. If you are able to get license plates, or the make/model of the vehicle, as well as the description of the occupants (race, sex, age, etc.), or a photograph, that is extremely valuable information that they can turn over to police in your area and also to the FBI. The FBI can then take this information and follow up with it, and investigations have been opened as a result of the information truckers are providing through the hotline.
By calling the NHTRC, this information is also tracked so that we can begin to see a pattern emerge as to some of the hotspots throughout the country. But we also want the trucking industry to begin to get credit for being part of the solution through the tracking process as well, and 911 does not collect that information. So we do ask folks who suspect that this is going on to make both calls. And it is okay to be wrong. The folks at the hotline are there to determine whether this is really a human trafficking case, so if you even suspect that something isn’t right – don’t hesitate to call – because you could be saving a life.
For more information about Truckers Against Trafficking, please visit their website http://truckersagainsttrafficking.org, follow them on Facebook and Twitter. TAT can also be contacted by email, firstname.lastname@example.org.