This week, trafficking education posters were installed in 41 rest areas across the state of Minnesota. These posters include guidelines on how to recognize the potential signs of human trafficking and what to do if you spot a victim.
The posters feature a woman peering out of the back window of a van, accompanied by the quotes, “I can’t escape. They took my passport and ID. Help,” and, “What you see could set someone free.” The poster encourages travelers to call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) to report any suspicious activity.
Human trafficking relies on travel. Since many citizens are unaware of this, the state found it necessary hang the posters at rest stops.
“MnDOT [has a responsibility] for maintaining the quality and safety of multiple modes of transportation and [provides] unique opportunities to see and stop human trafficking activities,” said Charles Zelle, the state transportation commissioner.
The sex trafficking industry is the second largest criminal market in the world, just beneath drug smuggling. With an annual exchange of over $150 b worldwide, human trafficking is becoming the fastest growing and most lucrative criminal enterprise in the United States.
Globally, there are over 20.9 million victims of human trafficking, and the average age of a victim is 13 years old. The FBI has recognized Twin Cities, MN as one of thirteen US cities with an extremely high incidence rate of child prostitution, and in 2015, Minnesota had the third highest number of human trafficking cases in the US.
MnDOT is committed to ending human trafficking in Minnesota through coordinated, multidisciplinary, statewide response efforts. They are working with many agencies to assist in their fight, including the Minnesota Human Trafficking Task Force, Transportation Leaders Against Human Trafficking, and Truckers Against Trafficking.
Along with the rest area posters, MnDOT’s initiative to end trafficking also includes other means of spreading information about human trafficking to the public, education for transportation employees, and the measurement of their impact on human trafficking in the state, which will lead to new ways to fight the epidemic.
Human trafficking is modern day slavery. Many of those who are victims of this horrible crime are not even aware that they are being trafficked. They are most often runaways or homeless youth who may believe that the abuse they are experiencing is a part of a normal relationship, or even blame themselves for the situation in which they are suffering.
The posters that are a part of MnDOT’s initiative to stop the crime could even help a victim save themselves by opening their eyes to type of relationships and circumstances in which they actually are. The actions that citizens take if they were to recognize the signs of trafficking could potentially save an innocent victim from a life of slavery.
The NHTRC toll-free hotline can be reached at 1(888) 373-7888.
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