OPINION

Letter to the Editor: Transit Riders Can Play Role in Combating Human Trafficking

Kimberly Cella
Executive Director of the Missouri Public Transit Association and Citizens for Modern Transit

The occurrence of human trafficking is pervasive throughout the United States – and in Missouri. In fact, the state has the eighth highest human trafficking rate in the nation according to the World Population Review. This is due, in part, to direct connectivity to eight other states and access to robust public transportation systems, where traffickers often recruit and transport victims. 

Educating ourselves on the intersections of this issue can help transit providers, and all who access public transit systems, play a key role in proactively and productively combating this horrific reality. 

Identifying victims, traffickers and buyers isn’t easy. All are said to include people of varying ages, sexes, races and socio-economic statuses. But there are red flags to look for when traveling via transit. Victims often exhibit signs of distress in their eyes and posture, are nonverbal or not allowed to speak for themselves, avoid eye contact, appear helpless, dress in clothing that isn’t age appropriate, appear addicted to drugs or are traveling alongside older individuals who seem to be mismatched. Traffickers may hang out at transit stops but never utilize transit or stay on a bus or train for long periods of time without deboarding. Homes along bus routes with a lot of in-and-out traffic or people going to hotels without luggage are also concerning.

If you suspect someone is involved in human trafficking do not approach them. Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text “Help” or “Info” to 233733. To learn, more visit www.thecoveringhouse.org.

Kimberly Cella, is the executive director of the Missouri Public Transit Association and Citizens for Modern Transit