JOPLIN, Mo. — In the fight against human trafficking, there’s a surprising set of heroes, stepping in when they’re needed the most — truck drivers.
As January is Human Trafficking Month, we’re looking into how the crime affects the Four Sates.
Truck drivers share how they identify and work to rescue victims of human trafficking.
Andy Standefer, Senior Manager of Safety, CFI Trucking, said, “A lot of times we associate these crimes with large areas, folks it’s happening right here in our neighborhoods.”
Human trafficking happens everywhere. Yes. Even right here in the Four States.
“We’re right in the heart of the country, specifically transportation.”
Thomas Miller, Professional Driver, said, “Truck drivers travel up and down the highways everyday, you know, we see a lot of things that most folks don’t see.”
When it comes to human trafficking, truckers sometimes get a bad rep.
“Contrary to popular belief, the trucking industry and the law enforcement actually have a great partnership,” said Standefer.
Truckers are keeping an eye out for anything out of the ordinary, appointing themselves guardians against human trafficking.
“That’s where Truckers Against Trafficking comes in,” said Miller
Truckers Against Trafficking is a non-profit organization that trains drivers to recognize and report human trafficking.
“Over 800,000, well, people within the industry, have now been trained on Truckers Against Trafficking.”
According to Truckers Against Trafficking’s website, more than 845,000 drivers are TAT trained.
“We’ve all been trained to keep and eye out on the tell-tale signs of trafficking.”
“We look for lights flashing in the parking lot that might be signaling communication for a potential transaction,” said Standefer
“Whenever we see things that are out of the ordinary, and that’s not normal, it kinda draws our attention to it and gets us to watch a little closer,” said Miller.
In 2015, one of CFI’s drivers followed his instincts and ended up saving a woman.
“Kevin Kimmel, just an ordinary guy doing his job and he sees the signs that something just might not be right here. And it was pretty simple. An RV parked in an area that an RV wouldn’t typically park at with blacked out windows, curtains, and then he saw a face peak out from behind that curtain,” said Standefer
Kimmel called the police
“And as a result of that he rescued a young lady from that situation.”
Truckers against trafficking has made nearly 25-hundred calls to the national human trafficking hotline.
“It goes back to the age old saying, if you see something, say something,” said Miller.
“We see the truck on the road and we forget that’s a man, a woman, a father, a mother behind the wheel of that truck they want to keep everybody safe too,” said Standefer
“I take great pride in knowing that I know that pretty much one in every four trucks out there is actually looking for something to try to stop trafficking,” said Miller.