METRO Takes a Stand Against Human Trafficking
The fight against human trafficking never stops, but there is a special, nationwide focus during the month of January, and METRO uses this time to help raise awareness and educate employees and others.
Think you’ll never need those skills? Consider this. There are an estimated 27.6 million victims globally on any given day. By knowing the signs, you could help free someone from this modern-day slavery or keep someone from being kidnapped.
Many of the victims are children, and much of the “work” they’re being forced into is sexual in nature. The toll is unimaginable.
To heighten awareness, METRO turned to an expert to take part in a special program on prevention.
Kerri Taylor is the executive director of Unbound Now Houston and works closely with the No Trafficking Zone and NRG Stadium. Unbound Now has advocates on-site at every Houston Texans home game.
"Everyone believes it's not happening here," she says, "but it's right under our noses,” said Taylor. MPD Chief Vera Bumpers and METRO Chief Safety Officer Santiago Osorio also participated in the presentation. You can watch it here.
METRO is also using its podcast, The Next Stop, to raise awareness. You can listen here as host Doug Delony interviews Taylor, further exploring the problem and what you can do to help combat it.
Transit Agencies: Watchdogs on Wheels
Transportation systems, by their very nature, act as arteries for movement, making them attractive to traffickers. Victims are often transported on buses and trains and through airports. Here are some other things METRO is doing:
- Training employees: Bus operators, fare inspectors, and other front line personnel get specialized instruction so they can recognize red flags.
- Collaborating with others: Partnerships with law enforcement agencies, community groups and organizations solely focused on fighting the problem, foster information sharing.
- Utilizing Technology: Collecting data can help identify suspicious travel patterns, and reporting systems allow for swift intervention.
- Increasing Public Awareness: Posting signs along the transit system helps educate passengers and encourages reporting anything that seems suspect.
- Providing Safe Haven: METRO buses can serve as sanctuaries for victims trying to escape. Operators are ready to provide immediate assistance and contact police.
The public is a powerful force that can make a difference, but people need to take the initiative to learn how.
- Know the Signs: Educating yourself is critical. You can learn more on Unbound Now’s website.
- Report Suspicious Activity: If you see something, say something. Quickly notifying MPD or other law enforcement agencies is vital. Reports can also be made directly to Unbound Now’s 24/7 Crisis Response and Referral Line at (1-346-202-4299) or the National Human Trafficking Hotline (1-888-373-7888).
- Educate Others: Share what you learn with friends, family, and any organizations with which you’re involved.
- Provide Support: You can donate to or volunteer with anti-trafficking organizations that aid victims.