DELANO Human trafficking is a $32 billion-per-year industry that is on the rise in all 50 states, with 4.5 million people sexually exploited, and up to 300,000 Americans under 18 lured into the commercial sex trade every year, according to Ark of Hope for Children.
Truckers Against Trafficking is trying to change that.
Kevin Otto, safety director of Delano-based Otto Transfer and current chairman of the Minnesota Trucking Association, is part of that effort.
He, along with 90 other leaders from the trucking and truck stop industries, and law enforcement, participated in a press conference Tuesday to announce a coalition between Minnesota law enforcement, such as the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and the trucking industry to rescue human trafficking victims and bring traffickers to justice.
“As truckers, we are trained to observe. We are always watching. We see more. We want to help people,” Otto said. “When my wife, Liz, heard about Truckers Against Trafficking at a Minnesota Trucking Association event from a woman who had been trafficked at truck stops at a young age I was relieved to know that, finally, truckers have a tool to assist trafficking victims.”
In January, Otto Transfer’s team of 25 from drivers to mechanics to dispatchers became trained spotters of victims of human trafficking at truck stops, hotels, and convenience stores. Truckers Against Trafficking stickers are in the company’s semi windows. And, Otto Transfer employees carry wallet cards titled, “Make the Call, Save Lives,” which provide clear instructions for getting victims the help they need from local law enforcement with one simple phone call.
“The human cost of trafficking is too high to push off training to another day,” Otto said. “It’s incredibly sad that there are young people in this world who don’t choose the road they take. The teen that we save from his or her plight is someone’s son or daughter. Getting Truckers Against Trafficking training is like learning CPR or first aid.”
Visit the link at www.delanoheraldjournal.com to learn about the training, which is applicable to anyone who travels, and takes only 30 minutes to complete.
“Partnerships like this are critical for combatting sex trafficking,” said BCA Superintendent Drew Evans. “Truckers are present in every Minnesota community and on the roadways that connect them. They are a key resource for spotting and reporting traffickers who are transporting their victims or looking to sell sex with the victim to a trucker.”
Additional training is also available.
With the Super Bowl recently being hosted in Minnesota, the topic of sex trafficking and sexually exploited youth has been in the spotlight. Many organizations work to address this issue. Wright County Health and Human Services has identified a need for additional training to assist Wright County employees and community members in the prevention, identification, and response to sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. In response, Wright County Health and Human services has organized a half-day training with local experts.
It will take place at 8 a.m. Thursday, May 10, at Huikko’s Bowling and Entertainment Center. Registration is required, and can be made by following the link at www.delanoheraldjournal.com.