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Here are some tips for travelers to spot - and stop - human trafficking on the road

COURTESY IMAGE: OREGON DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION - January is human trafficking awareness month. Our travel and freight industries rely on a transportation network connected by rest stops, truck stops, airports and miles of interstate that all help keep the economy moving.

But this network is also home to an underground economy that traffics in people.

Human trafficking is a form of slavery, forcing victims, who are often children, into sexual slavery or illegal labor. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that more than 25 million people, including children, are held against their will and forced into labor and prostitution around the world.PMG - Kris Strickler

The more we know about how to spot human trafficking the more we can do to bring it down.

That's why in 2020 I signed the Transportation Leaders Against Human Trafficking pledge. Participants include states, local governments, transportation agencies, airports, non-profits, unions, trucking companies and more.

This pledge calls on transportation industry leaders to collaboratively work to end human trafficking by raising public awareness, sharing data and educating employees to recognize the signs.

The partnership focuses on five key areas and connects transportation stakeholders to resources on industry leadership, industry education, policy development, public awareness, and information sharing and analysis.

Join us in January as the nation marks Human Trafficking Awareness month. From Jan. 11 to 13, ODOT's Motor Carrier Enforcement officers will hand out wallet cards and window decals raising awareness of human trafficking. The public can get involved in many ways but the most important role we can play is to educate ourselves about the problem.

Trafficking can occur in neighborhoods, cities, suburbs, small towns and rural areas. Its tentacles reach all races, nationalities, genders and socioeconomic classes.

The latest report from the U.S. Advisory Council on Human Trafficking is not easy reading.

"Human trafficking is a heinous crime in our country and around the world," the report said. "It affects individuals, families and communities. Many have lost their lives and others struggle daily as they cope with the trauma of this horrible crime."

That's why we're taking steps to help.

Our Commerce and Compliance Division requires yearly training for all motor carrier enforcement officers in recognizing the signs of human trafficking. The training comes from Truckers Against Trafficking.

ODOT has also partnered with Oregon State Police to offer the Truckers Against Trafficking training to law enforcement. And our Public Transit Division coordinates human trafficking awareness training for all transit drivers in Oregon.

It can be difficult to identify when a stranger is being trafficked in public places, but there are some signs to look for. While this is not an exhaustive list, some potential signs of human trafficking include someone:

  • Deferring to another person to speak for them or appearing coached in how to respond.
  • Showing signs of physical abuse, restraint or confinement.
  • Seeming deprived of food, sleep, water or necessities.
  • Having a sudden and noticeable change in demeanor.
  • Appearing malnourished.
  • Having little or no personal possessions.
  • Having no sense of time or whereabouts.
  • If you see something or grow concerned by the change in behavior of someone you know, get help from the National Human Trafficking Hotline by calling 1-888-373-7888. This is a national toll-free hotline available to answer calls from anywhere in the country around the clock. The hotline is operated by a nongovernmental organization. It is not affiliated with law enforcement of immigration authorities.

    You may also text HELP or INFO to 233733 (BEFREE). And 911 for local law enforcement is always available if someone appears in immediate danger. Victims are often too scared to come forward.

    The Oregon Department of Justice has a human trafficking intervention coordinator at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and human trafficking task forces can be found throughout the region and around the state.

    All users of Oregon's transportation system must be alert for these crimes. The more aware we all become, the more we can fight this scourge. We all have to help bring this crime out of the shadows.

    Kris Strickler is director of ODOT. Comments can be directed to 888-Ask-ODOT or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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