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“I’ve seen it happen multiple times” — Truckers are learning to spot signs of human trafficking

(WKOW) — Human trafficking has impacted all 72 counties across Wisconsin and although law enforcement is cracking down on it, there’s another group of people who see it happening almost everyday and have the chance to do something about.

Truck drivers are the eyes and ears of the roadways. They outnumber law enforcement on the roads exponentially and see the unthinkable on the roads almost everyday.

Jim Massey has been a truck driver for just over two decades and has driven a little three million miles.

“I’ve been all over the country,” Massey said. “All over Canada, down to Mexico…it’s pretty exciting.”

But Massey said there’s times he sees things that many people would find downright disturbing.

One night, after pulling over at a truck stop after a hard-days work, Massey said a woman knocked on the side of his truck door.

“I’m sitting there, trying to get a decent night’s sleep, getting up irritated and annoyed,” Massey said. “I thought, ‘why are you waking me up?’”

It turns out, the woman who knocked on the side of Massey’s truck was a victim of human trafficking. Massey said he wishes he would’ve known that back then.

“Had I known then what I know now…I would’ve been calling the authorities, trying to get her the help she needs to get her out of that lifestyle that she’s forced into,” he said.

Massey said that wasn’t the only time he received a knock on the side of his truck door. But he’s since educated himself on everything related to human trafficking and how to help victims.

One of the ways he went about educating himself was through an organization called Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT). Using a 26-minute training video, the organization teaches truck drivers all across the country about the signs of human trafficking.

They encourage drivers to call the National Human Trafficking Hotline when they notice anything suspicious like cars pulling into truck stops flashing their headlights, radio chatter asking for “commercial company,” or more obvious signs like someone knocking on the side of their truck.

“This crime is impacting children, adults, men, women, boys and girls that could be any of our family members,” said Laura Cyrus, the director of corporate engagement at TAT.

Since its inception, TAT has trained more than 7,000 truck drivers. From that, more than 2,000 calls have been made to the National Human Trafficking Hotlne which has helped identify 1,100 victims of human trafficking.

Those numbers have impressed lawmakers at the Wisconsin state capitol. Currently, Assembly bill 22 is making its way through the Legislature. If passed, the bill would require truck driving instructors to teach the signs of human trafficking in some way.

“I think a lot of people going into truck driving have no idea that this kind of stuff is going on,” Representative Thiesfeldt, a supporter of the bill said. “We can put a stop to this like I said if we work together and get the proper training for the people that can be the eyes and ears of the road.”

Massey agrees. He thinks the bill is a step in the right direction to help educate all truck drivers.

“It’s something that once they educate themselves they can help fight the good fight and put an end to human trafficking,” he said.

Jessica Porter

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