Greenlink is now enlisting its bus drivers to fight human trafficking, with the help of a $20,936 grant from the Federal Transit Administration.
The grant is a part of a $5.4 million Human Trafficking Awareness and Public Safety Initiative awarded to 24 organizations across the country. The goal of the initiative is to fund projects that help prevent human trafficking and other crimes on public transportation.
Greenville Public Transit Director James Keel said the resources will help train drivers how to spot warning signs.
“Our bus drivers are on the front lines interacting with our customers and the public every day,” Keel said. “Equipping them with the knowledge and proper reporting process will help increase safety for our community.”
Human trafficking has been reported in all 50 states, with the number of victims in the country estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands, according to the American Bus Association. Human traffickers often use bus terminals and bus stops as recruiting areas when looking for vulnerable people, particularly minors and young adults, according to the ABA.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimate that one out of seven runaways becomes a victim of child sex trafficking.
“Human traffickers use busing to transport their victims to locations where they’ll be sold,” the ABA said in a statement. “Human traffickers are counting on busing employees to be ignorant of the signs to look for and the questions to ask, which would help spot victims in transit.”
- A survey and community workshop to better understand the public’s knowledge and perception of human trafficking in Greenville County
- Three separate training sessions for bus drivers to become more educated on human trafficking and its warning signs
- A training video for all new hires to ensure training consistency for all Greenlink employees
- Three human trafficking prevention training sessions for the public
- Two public safety roundtables to encourage dialogue with Greenlink staff, customers and law enforcement about ongoing safety concerns
- The production of ads to post in the buses and at bus stop shelters
- A large-scale public awareness event
The initiative from the FTA is just one aspect of a broader effort to undermine human trafficking, an industry that generates an estimated $150 billion worldwide, according to a report from the Department of Transportation Advisory committee on Human Trafficking.
“The pervasiveness and profitability of human trafficking raises daunting challenges for the transportation industry,” the report notes. “Traffickers often rely on the transportation industry in every phase of human trafficking: for recruitment, moving and controlling victims, and for delivering victims to buyers.”
In 2018, President Trump signed into law the “No Human Trafficking on Our Roads Act,” which bars a person from operating a commercial motor vehicle for life if they are found to have committed a felony involving human trafficking, which includes paying for sex acts.