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Public asked to be alert for signs of human trafficking

JEFFERSON CITY—January is National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, marking the anniversary of the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. The Missouri Department of Transportation has joined forces with the Missouri State Highway Patrol and local law enforcement to combat the crime of human trafficking in the Show-Me State.

“Human trafficking remains a growing concern in Missouri, particularly along the interstate corridors,” said MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna. “That makes uniting the efforts of everyone in the transportation sector of vital importance in combatting this rapidly expanding criminal enterprise.”

In 2018, Director McKenna signed the Transportation Leaders Against Human Trafficking pledge, committing MoDOT to providing specialized training to employees about the common indicators of human trafficking and how to report potential cases while raising public awareness of human trafficking issues impacting our state and nation.

“Education and public awareness are just two things we do to help eliminate human trafficking,” McKenna said. “Because our jobs carry us to all four corners of the state, MoDOT, the Highway Patrol and our commercial trucker allies serve as the eyes to recognize and the voice to report suspicious activity along one of the busiest transportation hubs in the country.”

MoDOT has provided public information about human trafficking and continues to train employees about the common indicators of human trafficking and how to report potential cases.

If you suspect someone is being forced to engage in any activity from which they can’t leave—whether it is commercial sex, housework, farm work or other activity—call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text BeFree (233733). Information is available online at humantraffickinghotline.org.

For more information about MoDOT’s efforts to “Put the Brakes on Human Trafficking,” go to modot.org/fighthumantrafficking or contact the MoDOT Human Resources office at 573-526-7644.

Identifying human trafficking in our communities

January is Human Trafficking Prevention month, and Pike Safe Neighborhoods has compiled a short list of facts and data to help create awareness in our communities. According to Hopeforjustice.org, Human trafficking is a crime where one person exploits another for labor, services, or commercial sex, using force, fraud, or coercion (or where the person induced is under 18 years of age, in the case of a commercial sex act under U.S. law).

The crime also includes the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining a human being for these purposes and in these ways. Human trafficking is one crime included under the umbrella term ‘modern-day slavery’, where victims cannot leave their situation of exploitation and are controlled by threats, punishment, violence, coercion or deception. In 2019, the National Human Trafficking Hotline received 136,990 reports about possible trafficking. Some facts about trafficking include that seven out of every 10 victims are women or young girls, traffickers make threats against their victims’ families, and one in every six endangered runaways are likely to be sex trafficking victims.

Following are some of the signs that someone may be a victim of human trafficking; houses or apartments that have a large number of occupants, who are dropped off or picked up in groups. People who seem scared, confused, or have untreated injuries. People who have few or no documents, visible bruises, limited freedom and movement, who display a fear of the police and authorities. Other signs to look for include taking notice of businesses that have lights on at unusual times, which could indicate that someone is living there.

If you have witnessed suspicious activity, or suspect that someone is a victim of human trafficking, you may make a report at Hopeforjustice.org, call the Pike County Sheriff’s office, or your local police department. You may also reach out to Pike Safe Neighborhoods on its Facebook page.

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