Earlier this year, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) launched its Human Trafficking Awareness and Public Safety Initiative, which included funding opportunities totaling $4 million to prevent human trafficking and other crimes that may occur on buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation. Human trafficking is a modern form of slavery affecting victims worldwide, including in the U.S. Traffickers use all modes of transportation to conduct their activities and often use public transit due to its low cost, greater anonymity in buying fare cards, and less direct interaction with government or transit officials, according to the FTA.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that there are 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally, according to data from Polaris, a non-profit advocacy group. Of these victims:
- 81% of them are trapped in forced labor
- 25% of them are children
- 75% are women and girls
The ILO estimates that forced labor and human trafficking is a $150 billion industry worldwide.
Front line of the battle
Kristen Joyner — executive director of the South West Transit Association — joined the fight against human trafficking six years ago after meeting a woman at a church fair coordinating mission projects related to human trafficking.
Since that meeting in Burleson, Texas, Joyner has been on a mission to help bring awareness to public transit agencies letting them know that they both have a role and a responsibility in the nation’s fight against modern day human slavery (See pg. 38). “I connected the members of the SWTA Nation to speakers, who are on the front line of the battle, to free resources so they can respond properly, and I have personally delivered over 80 training opportunities to transit agency professionals across the nation.”
During the President Obama Administration, Joyner served on the Transportation Leaders Against Human Trafficking (TLAHT) Advisory Committee. The TLAHT developed a video that showed what human trafficking could look like in a bus and rail scenario, described warning signs, and provided resources for operators to act on what they had observed. “Our goal was to discuss the transportation sector’s role in the issue and brainstorm ways we can combat human trafficking utilizing our resources.”
Currently, Joyner volunteers at the local level with an organization that provides services to 12- to 18-year-old girls who have been trafficked. And, Joyner represents the transit sector on U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s Advisory Committee on Human Trafficking, a role she was appointed to in October 2018.
Recommendations, best practices
Our goals include providing a report to the Secretary that will ultimately be presented to Congress that will provide strategies for identifying and reporting instances of human trafficking; provide recommendations for administrative or legislative changes; and to provide best practices for state and local transportation stakeholders. The full committee will present their final report to Secretary Chao in June.
I agree that helping to prevent human trafficking is everyone’s responsibility. As public transportation is known as a “tool” for the transport of human trafficking victims, it should be mandatory that all transportation employees, or employees in any industry working with the public for that matter, be trained to spot the warning signs of someone that is a victim. This may help save a life.
Janna Starcic is the executive editor of METRO Magazine.