March 28, 2018 – Human trafficking, or modern-day slavery, is the exploitation of human beings through force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of commercial sex or forced labor.  Human trafficking generates $9.5 billion per year as reported by the Federal Bureau of Investigations, and there are approximately 40 million slaves around the world, according to Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT).

Sergeant Neil Suckow with the Iowa Department of Transportation, Motor Vehicle Enforcement (MVE) reported that the MVE has teamed up with Truckers Against Trafficking to bring awareness to this problem.  Together, they seek to educate, equip, empower, and mobilize members of the trucking industry to spot and report suspected cases of human trafficking.

Approximately 100,000 to 300,000 children are at risk of being trafficked into the forced sex trade, and the average age of entry is 13-14 years old.  One of the most powerful methods of human traffickers is coercion.  They prey on the vulnerable and marginalized, grooming them with false promises and “friendship.”  Often, traffickers will use social media to find victims who feel they are on the outside, building trust in order to use that against the victim.

Within two days of a person going missing due to human trafficking, that person could be across the country from where they were taken.  Interstate 80 runs from coast to coast, straight through the State of Iowa, making it the prime location to spot people being moved across country in human trafficking cases.  That is why the trucking industry can be the first line of defense to spot people in need of help.  Truck drivers can intersect victims at rest areas, travel plazas or parking lots, hotels or motels, gas stations, places of business, or even on the road.  Truck drivers are trained to be vigilant and observant, being the eyes and ears of the road.

Thanks to a vigilant, TAT-trained truck driver while at a Virginia truck stop, a victim of sex trafficking was recovered, and a couple from Clive, Iowa were arrested and found guilty on federal sex trafficking charges.  In another case, Sgt. Kevin Killpack of Iowa MVE recovered a missing juvenile from Florida who was being transported across county by a truck driver to keep her from testifying against her trafficker, who was subsequently sentenced to life in prison for sex trafficking.

The Iowa MVE model has been adopted in whole or in part in 35 states.  MVE is working to train law enforcement officers, truck drivers, and bus industry employees using TAT training materials.  They are also working to stock weigh stations, ports of entry, rest areas, and bus terminals with TAT materials.

To report a suspected case of human trafficking, call 1-888-3737-888 or dial *55 on a cellular phone.