COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The Ohio State Patrol has a new group of partners to fight human sex trafficking…truckers.
The Patrol is teaming up with Truckers Against Trafficking to educate drivers to recognize the signs and to help.
It’s an effort that troopers say is already making a difference. They’re handing out training material to the tens of thousands of truckers who drive on Ohio’s roadways every day. They say truckers are in the perfect position to spot the victims of human trafficking and to get them help.
“They don’t know who to turn to,” says Lance Francioni.
Francioni has been driving a big rig for nearly a decade and believes he’s seen victims of human trafficking many times.
“You’ll see them sometimes, but the identifiers to know if they’re doing trafficking or not aren’t something that every truck driver’s gonna look for,” he says.
John Finley’s seen it too.
“In the trucking industry, if you have any time in it at all, you know it happens. You see them working the parking lots,” says Finley.
That’s why the Ohio State Highway Patrol is reaching out to these truckers, teaming up with Truckers Against Trafficking, or TAT, to empower truckers to recognize the signs and to help.
“They’re part of the transportation industry and that’s how the human traffickers move these kids,” says OSP Lt. Kelly Weakley.
The governor’s Human Trafficking Task Force Report says more than 1,000 Ohio children are trafficked in the sex industry every year… The number of young adults trafficked in the labor or sex industry couldn’t even be estimated.
Last year Ohio’s State Troopers handed out more than 180,000 pieces of TAT materials to folks in the trucking industry.
“Once we give them the pamphlet, they say, ‘you know, I have seen something throughout my travels that doesn’t look right, and now than I’m aware I’m gonna call that number,’” says Weakley.
TAT’s founder says Ohio is leading the way in training the nation’s seven million trucking industry employees to recognize the signs of human trafficking and how to help.
In July, every new CDL holder in Ohio will have a block of human trafficking training.
John Finley says it’s the right idea. His company already trains its drivers on human trafficking and he says each one could spot someone who needs help.
“You can see a lot from the seat of a truck when you sit in a parking lot that a lot of people don’t,” says Finley.
If you’ve been a victim or if you think you’ve seen the signs call 911 or the National Human Trafficking Recourse Center at 888-3737-888.