TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — On National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, Florida law enforcement agencies are highlighting how stopping crime is a community effort, and how Florida’s truck drivers are playing a “critical role” in the fight.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Attorney General Ashley Moody, The Florida Highway Patrol, Florida Trucking Association and Truckers Against Trafficking are standing together to spotlight human trafficking, and how they’re working together to stop the “crime that often hides in plain sight” from happening in Florida.
The Florida Highway Heroes initiative is an outreach campaign launched in October 2020 to train 500,000 Florida commercial drivers to identify and report suspected human trafficking. FLHSMV said Florida’s drivers are “uniquely positioned to make a difference and close loopholes to traffickers who look to use transportation systems for their personal gain.”
Since the program’s start, 4,600 commercial drivers and 400 FHP officers have been trained by the Highway Heroes program.
“Florida’s 12,000 miles of highway and growing economy present residents and visitors to our state with many opportunities to travel for work and leisure. And while our expansive highway system affords us so much, criminals target our state and exploit our highways to traffic women, men, and children,” FLHSMV Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes said.
From Jan. 11 to Jan. 13, FHP will take part in a human trafficking awareness initiative focused on engaging with commercial motor vehicle drivers and handing out information on Truckers Against Trafficking during roadside inspections and enforcement stops across Florida.
The Truckers Against Trafficking card is available for download and printing online, and there’s an app to put on smart phones so information can always be reported to law enforcement. Hard copies are available upon request, the information is available in both English and Spanish, online and by mail.
“We are very appreciative of the continued efforts of FLHSMV, the Office of the Florida Attorney General and the Florida Highway Patrol in the fight against human trafficking throughout the state of Florida. The more awareness raised, the more calls will be made to law enforcement, and lives will be saved,” Truckers Against Trafficking Deputy Director Kylla Lanier said.
FLHSMV provided a list of steps to take if you suspect human trafficking and want to call on law enforcement to help. The tips are to help give police and other state law enforcement “actionable information”:
- Descriptions of cars or trucks (make, model, color, license plate, truck and/or USDOT number.) and people (height, weight, hair color, eye color, age.) Take a picture if possible.
- Specific times and dates (When did you see the event in question take place? What day was it?)
- Addresses and locations where suspicious activity took place.
- Be sure to tell them you suspect human trafficking, not prostitution.
To contact law enforcement about suspected human traffickers, or if you see something suspicious:
- The National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888
- The U.S. Department of Justice Hotline: 1-888-428-7581
- Florida Abuse Hotline: 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873)
- Local Authorities: 911 or *FHP (*347)
More information on the Highway Heroes initiative, including access to the TAT training, is available on the FLHSMV Highway Heroes website.
“We will not sit idly by as traffickers travel Florida preying on vulnerable people to fuel their illicit practice. We are putting the pedal to the metal to train as many drivers as possible to help steer us toward our goal of ensuring Florida is a zero-tolerance state for human trafficking,” Attorney General Ashley Moody said.
Moody said that while there’s no single path to achieving the goal of being a zero-tolerance state, every truck driver in Florida should learn the signs and help fight against human trafficking. She said the Highway Heroes program will help make roads safer, and could save the lives of victims “in desperate need of help.”