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  • Writer's pictureJ. Wilson

Human trafficking happens in our area, MoDOT and authorities want you to know how to spot it

How to spot Human Trafficking

85 cases were identified in Kansas in 2021, in Missouri it was 240

Officials with the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Missouri Department of Transportation, and the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department are taking part in a new human trafficking awareness initiative, the groups announced Friday.

Hundreds of cases have been reported on both sides of the state line in Kansas City. In 2021, 83 cases were identified in Kansas. In Missouri, the numbers were much higher at 240.

Human trafficking often involves our nation’s transportation systems, including Missouri’s roadways,” MSHP Col. Eric T. Olson said.

“Our commercial vehicle drivers, inspectors, law enforcement officers, and the general public need to know what to look for and how to respond to these situations to help rescue the vulnerable people being exploited.”

The initiative, which runs Jan. 9-13, will serve as a concentrated effort to show people who frequent the highways, like commercial motor vehicle drivers, motor carriers, law enforcement officers, and the general public about human trafficking. Authorities want individuals to know the signs to look for and what to do if you spot a potential case of human trafficking.

Authorities say the signs aren’t always obvious and can include:

Travel with an older “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”

Travel with an older male or female who isn’t a guardian

Signs of physical coercion like depression, anxiety, or an overly submissive attitude

Lack of control over his or her schedule, money, or items proving identification

Physical trauma like bruises, cuts, burns or scars

Poor health

Coached or rehearsed responses to questions

Substance abuse, addiction, or selling drugs

Homelessness

Many think that this kind of thing happens somewhere else, to someone else, but we know it occurs everywhere and touches the lives of many right here in our own community,” KCPD Sgt. Grant Ruark said.

“We want to get the word out to those who might need help that there is a way out,” Ruark said. “We want to give the honest, hardworking and caring commercial vehicle owners and operators the information they need to take action if and when they see this kind of thing going on.”

Kansas City Police said during routine random commercial vehicle inspections, officers will be handing out information provided by Truckers Against Trafficking to help raise awareness. Officers will also spend time at area truck stops circulating this information.

“It doesn’t necessarily stay within the community in which the victim is grabbed,” MoDOT Commercial Vehicle Program Manager Heather Luebbert said. “The highways are used to get that business around.”

Luebbert added MoDOT actually trains its workers to know the signs of human trafficking.

“Human traffickers are motivated by greed, exploiting the most vulnerable among us for $150 billion annually,” highway patrol officials said in a news release. “This crime is occurring throughout North America and has been reported in every U.S. and Mexican state, and in all Canadian provinces. In addition to being trafficked within their own nation’s borders, our citizens are being exploited across national borders.”

Anyone suspecting human trafficking should notify authorities immediately, or you can call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.



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