A new partnership between the Kansas Attorney General, the state’s motor carriers association, and Truckers Against Trafficking aims to combat sex trafficking in the Sunflower State by raising awareness of the issue.
The partnership between Attorney General Derek Schmidt, the Kansas Motor Carriers Association, and TAT is part of an effort to build coalitions between law enforcement and the trucking industry to help identify and thwart human trafficking, according to Esther Goetsch, TAT’s coalition build specialist.
“Our mission is to educate, equip, empower and mobilize members of the trucking industry to combat human trafficking as part of their everyday jobs,” Goetsch said via email. “We do this through our trucking specific training materials, through partnering with law enforcement to facilitate the investigation of human trafficking, and through marshaling the resources of the trucking industry to combat these crimes.”
The partnership is part of a joint training operation for state law enforcement, which was hosted by Schmidt’s office in Topeka on Thursday, April 7.
“Through this new partnership, we will continue to train local law enforcement and educate the trucking industry about the signs of human trafficking and how to report it,” Schmidt said in a statement. “By combining forces with the trucking industry, we hope to raise awareness of sex trafficking that occurs along our Kansas roads and highways.”
According to Goetsch, the coalition builds are designed to create strategies for trucking and law enforcement to come together in this effort. The group works to train law enforcement, professional drivers and truck stop and travel plaza employees with training materials to help identify cases of human trafficking.
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center, a nonprofit that provides a hotline as well as extensive data sets on human trafficking in the United States, reported 5,544 cases of human trafficking in the U.S. in 2015. Of those, more than 4,600 of the victims were women and more than 1,600 of the total victims were under the age of 18. The vast majority of all cases were involved in sex trafficking.
Tom Whitaker, executive director of the KMCA, said his organization got involved to help make connections between trucking companies, the Kansas Highway Patrol, and travel plaza owners and managers to ensure that “if they see something, they make the call to law enforcement or the Human Trafficking Hotline.”
“This collaboration means that Kansas is not only taking an active role in the fight against human trafficking but we are also providing education to the eyes and ears of our highways,” Whitaker said. “KMCA is also in a unique position as we provide CMV registration and it gives us the opportunity to reach drivers and companies that may not be members to help distribute vital information on what to do if that company or driver suspect someone is a victim of human trafficking.”
Goetsch thanked the motor carriers association and the attorney general for their partnership.
“We hope that through these meetings, more drivers and truck stop and travel plaza employees will be trained and that law enforcement will be able to use this industry more effectively as they go after traffickers who are exploiting victims and legitimate businesses for criminal gain,” she said.
The public can also assist by reporting suspicious activity to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center’s hotline at 888-3737-888.
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