Transportation helps fight back against human trafficking

“Not on my bus. Not on my train. Not in my community.”

Across the country, hundreds of participants in a recent TRB webinar stood up and said this mantra out loud during a presentation by Kristen Joyner, executive consultant and trainer at South West Transit Association.

Joyner and Margo Hill, a tribal attorney and tribal court judge, presented on the human trafficking of, specifically, indigenous women in the United States.

Hill focused on jurisdiction complications and tools within the legal system to better protect tribal women. She also detailed the mobility patterns of indigenous women and girls, including their travel between reservations and cities, a higher use of cash systems than other U.S. populations, and high rates of domestic violence. Each of these issues can contribute to being vulnerable to human trafficking.

A recording of Human Trafficking and Mobility of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women is packed full of information, with further reading and resources also listed.

This webinar was organized by the TRB Standing Committee on Native American Transportation Issues.

Transportation plays a role in stopping modern slavery
In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation which declared “that all persons held as slaves…are, and henceforward shall be free.” Incidentally, Lincoln signed the law establishing the National Academy of Sciences on March 3 of the same year. Slavery has been illegal in the U.S. for over 150 years, but a form of modern slavery exists today in human trafficking.

Victims of human trafficking are found in a wide span of industries. While the most common associations may be food services or the sex industry, labor trafficking happens in agriculture, hospitality, manufacturing, and variety of services in between. Human traffickers rely on transportation to perpetuate this illegal practice, but the transportation industry can play an important role in stopping the practice.

The transportation industry and TRB are researching ways to actively combat human trafficking. Projects currently in the works will form a foundation for the TRB resources available on this topic.

Research helps block the path of human trafficking
With improvements in their awareness of human trafficking, transit agencies are working to make their systems more secure. Fifteen percent of the transit agencies surveyed, as detailed in the TRB Transit Cooperative Research Program’s (TCRP) Transit Security Preparedness report, said they have experienced at least one human trafficking incident. Agencies are collaborating both with law enforcement and/or special task forces to counter the issue and offer training specifically on combatting human trafficking as well as taking action to better inform their customers.
An upcoming primer, guidebook, and toolkit from TRB Airport Cooperative Research Program (ACRP) will help airport operators create and implement a comprehensive anti-human trafficking action plan. The resources will address all forms of human trafficking and allow airport operators to tailor their approaches to their unique situations.
State departments of transportation can also harness the potential of their employees and technology to fight trafficking, aid victims, and support critical decision making. One of TRB National Cooperative Highway Research Program’s (NCHRP) active projects is developing guidance and a suite of tools to support effective training, policy, and collaborations for mitigating human trafficking. The project will address leadership, field staff, contractors, industry stakeholders, and collaborative partners.

Human trafficking is also an issue in rural transportation, as addressed in another active NCHRP project will result in a forthcoming research roadmap.

Lend your expertise to building the research
Get involved in this work with the Cooperative Research Programs. Look for ongoing information on new projects, requests for proposals, or to nominate yourself or others to serve on a project panel. Submit problem statement research ideas and find new announcements in TRB’s weekly newsletter or on the homepages for ACRP, NCHRP, and TCRP.
Become a friend of one of TRB’s Standing Committees working on these topics. TRB’s Safety and Operations Group and Safety Section committees offer several options for addressing safety issues. Your expertise can help our industry in this fight.
TRB webinars cited in this article:

TRB reports cited in this article:  
TRB active projects cited in this article:
TRB Committees cited: Additional National Academies reports:
Additional TRB resources:
Beth Ewoldsen, Content Strategist
Transportation Research Board
202-334-2353; [email protected]
Published August 24, 2020

This Summary Last Modified On: 8/24/2020

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