The Missouri Department of Transportation is the latest state DOT to join a national effort aimed at eliminating human trafficking in the United States.
As one of the signatories to the Transportation Leaders Against Human Trafficking pledge – an initiative of the U.S. Department of Transportation that involves more than 200 transportation and travel industry stakeholders working to combat human trafficking – MoDOT said in a statement it will "voluntarily commit" to educating employees and raising public awareness of human trafficking issues impacting our state and nation, with agency employees receiving specialized training regarding the "common indicators" of human trafficking and how to report potential cases.
MoDOT noted it's provided education about human trafficking over the years and hopes that by joining this national partnership it can bring additional awareness to the issue.
"We may not think that human trafficking is happening around us, but the truth is, it's happening in cities and small communities all across America," Steve Meystrik, interim director for the agency's motor carrier services division, said in a statement.
He added that those involved in human trafficking are using roadways, railways, waterways and skies. Kansas City, St. Louis, Branson, and locations along the I-44 corridor including Rolla, Springfield and Joplin are the most common locations in Missouri for human trafficking cases to be reported.
On top of that, last year, Missouri had the 16th highest number of human trafficking cases reported of all 50 states and Washington, D.C., Meystrik said.
Other state DOTs are providing a range of resources to beef up the fight against human trafficking. Early this month, the Arizona DOT deployed two K-9 teams to help thwart drug smuggling and human trafficking, while in March 2017, PennDOT began training its Driver License Center staff on how to notice signs of potential trafficking situations, as well as arrange training for its transit operators.
"Human trafficking has sadly become a worldwide problem and developed into a $32 billion a year trade," noted PennDOT Secretary Leslie Richards. "We at PennDOT are doing our part to help spot victims and get them assistance."
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