Indiana State Troopers are focusing on semi trucks this month as part of a Human Trafficking Awareness Month initiative.
During the month of January, troopers have been monitoring and working with truck drivers at weigh stations along Interstate 69 and beyond in an attempt to catch traffickers, save their victims, and even educate truck drivers on what to look for and report to the authorities.
While Indiana isn’t exactly the human trafficking hub of the world, the 157 human trafficking cases reported in Indiana in 2019 alone were still 157 too many for state troopers, and contributes to the $150 billion a year criminal human trafficking industry across the world.
Senior trooper Joe Hartman says he is always looking for signs of human trafficking when observing a semi truck, but that this month he and all state troopers have taken extra care to speak with truckers about what they should be looking for.
“I’m looking around the vehicle and I know that they’re coming from…by their documentation or their bill of lading it shows what they’re hauling is coming from Texas going to Ohio, let’s say, and they don’t have any luggage in the vehicle that shows a change of clothes and it’s a five-day trip and the other passengers are not making eye contact,” Hartman said to Fort Wane NBC.
“It’s very important that we follow up and do our due diligence to conduct these traffic investigations in a manner that helps us identify the problem. So, our guys are good at it too. They know what they’re doing, they know what to look for,” said trooper Brian Walker with the ISP post in Fort Wayne.
Drivers passing through the area say that they are in support of the efforts, adding that they will do what they can to help the cause and prevent such criminal activity. Several states including Kansas and Alabama, Colorado, and Ohio have already adopted mandatory human trafficking training for CDL holders, while still others are working to promote human trafficking awareness and comprehensive training for truck drivers.
“[Reporting suspicious activity] … That would be a top priority to me. I know I wouldn’t want to be treated that way and I wouldn’t want anybody else to treat somebody that way,” said trucker Terry Bowser.
Hartman lists the following as red flags to look for in a human trafficking case:
- A truck in poor condition
- Multiple passengers in the truck
- Truck driver does all the talking when questioned
Truckers who do have evidence of human trafficking are urged to contact “Truckers Against Trafficking”, which works with law enforcement to get cases investigated.
You can reach that organization at 1-888-373-7888.