Truckers Mobilize Against Child Trafficking

National Group Educates Truckers On Telltale Signs

Less than 24 hours after a major child sex-trafficking ring was busted in Colorado, truckers are taking action.

A non-profit group called Truckers Against Trafficking is mobilizing drivers and educating them about the telltale signs of human trafficking.

“Traffickers are recruiting kids out of our schools and out of shopping centers,” said the group’s national director, Kendis Paris.

Paris said truckers are uniquely qualified to help law enforcement combat the problem.

“Truckers are the eyes and ears of the nation’s highways, so they see things that the general public usually doesn’t,” she said.

Paris said the FBI conducted a series of stings between 2004 and 2009 and rescued children as young as 13 who were being forced into prostitution at truck stops.

She said the group is trying to get as many truckers, truck stops and trucking companies to fight against trafficking.

Johnson’s Corner, a well known truck stop on Interstate 25 just south of Loveland is taking part in the program.

Retail Operations Manager Dwight Gaiter recalls the first time he and other employees watched a training video.

“We didn’t even get it finished before the tears started,” he said, “because of the tremendous impact on youth.”

Gaiter said employees have been taught to watch for telltale signs like “children who look unhappy or fidgety around an older adult and children who are afraid to look you in the eye.”

When asked if they’ve seen a victim of human trafficking, Gaiter said, “Not since we’ve been taught what to look for.”

But he said, in retrospect, some wonder about children they’d seen before they learned about the program.

Many truckers seem receptive to taking part in the program.

“I don’t like to see kids get hurt,” said Dianne Koehn.

Koehn said she and her husband always keep their eyes open when they’re on the road. She said they’d like to learn more about the telltale signs of human trafficking.

Paris said Truckers Against Trafficking has been successful.

She said a truck stop employee in Washington noticed two minors with an older adult and approached the children.

“She spoke with them,” Paris said. “They said, ‘Oh, he’s our uncle.’ She got law enforcement involved. It turns out they were runaways from Idaho with $5 between them.”

Paris, citing another example of success, said a trucker picked up a hitchhiker and learned that she’d escaped from her captors.

“He asked some questions and learned that she was a victim of human trafficking, so he gave her the national human trafficking hotline number,” Paris said. “She’s now in a safe home.”

Paris has also enlisted the help of the Colorado Motor Carriers Association to spread the word.

Association spokesman Stan Linnertz said, “We are committed as an industry to put the squash on this puppy.”

Linnertz said many truck drivers have kids of their own and are more than willing to be on the lookout for children who are being trafficked for sex or other purposes.

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