Transportation Secretary ramping up efforts to combat human trafficking

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WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — The U.S. Department of Transportation reports human trafficking cases are up 25 percent from 2017.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline handled 8,700 cases in 2017 compared to nearly 11,000 cases in 2018, which is the most recent data available.  

The U.S. Secretary of Transportation announced Tuesday new efforts to combat human traffickers.

Secretary Elaine Chao said her department has trained its 55,000 employees to recognize and report human trafficking. She wants other employers to do the same. 

The biggest players in the fight against human trafficking traveled to Washington to shine a spotlight on the crime.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes says the types of trafficking range from sex exploitation to forced labor and can affect anyone.

“When it comes to fighting modern day slavery, there is no red or blue. This is not a Republican issue or a Democrat issue. This is a human issue,” Reyes said.

While Utah is home to one of the lowest rates of human trafficking.

Georgia has one of the highest.

The state’s first lady Marty Kemp is pushing a statewide training program to change that.

“To raise awareness, seek justice for victims, hold the bad actors accountable,” said Kemp.

Texas Democrat Henry Cuellar says Congress backs these efforts on a federal level.

“Monies have been appropriated, but we have to work together,” said Cuellar.

Secretary Elaine Chao says the U.S. Department of Transportation is leading the charge by encouraging companies to commit to educating employees like flight attendants and truck drivers to recognize and report the signs of human trafficking.

“Training over one million employees to help fight human trafficking. That’s incredible news.”

Secretary Chao is now challenging others in the transportation industry to commit to 100 more pledges in the next 100 days.

Chao says her department is also developing training resources tailored to each mode of transportation and awarding grants to support state efforts.

“To make the transportation sector a more effective force against the evil that is human trafficking.”

To crack down on repeat offenders, a new rule permanently bans commercial drivers from getting their license if convicted of using their vehicle for human trafficking.

Break down of human trafficking cases state by state

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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