Truckers in the great state of Iowa are joining in the fight against human trafficking. A Cedar Rapids-based group is now working with the Iowa Department of Transportation and local truck drivers to identify this kind of criminal activity.
Human trafficking is the trade of human beings, often for sexual slavery or forced labor. Those targeted by traffickers are often shipped thousands of miles from home to engage in illicit activities. In essence, victims of human trafficking are slaves.
Now, the group Sisters and Brothers Collaborating against Human Trafficking is working with the Iowa Department of Transportation and the state’s truck drivers to identify victims and take action against criminals. Many truckers, like Iowa’s Everett Smith, are all too familiar with the issue.
Smith, who has been driving Iowa’s highways for about five years, says he’s come face-to-face with human trafficking on several occasions; in one instance a prostitute literally jumped right inside his cab. “I had somebody knock on the [truck] door first and I had the windows down and she got in my truck,” he said. “Out in California and stuff, you would pull into a rest stop and you could never get any sleep at night because there was always somebody knocking on your door,” Everett added.
That’s why Teresa Davidson, chairperson of Cedar Rapids’ Sisters and Brothers Collaborating against Human Trafficking, is so determined to help crack down on the problem. Davidson says she’s been impressed with the willingness of government officials and the state’s truckers to offer their assistance.
“The Iowa [Department of Transportation] is really doing a wonderful job. They are educating truckers at inspection stops that they have and they are training them what to look for,” Davidson said.
Davidson says that, ultimately, she hopes truck drivers will take on the role of being the eyes and ears of the road — always on the ready to point out potential human trafficking victims and perpetrators. “At rest areas, if there’s maybe one gentleman with a bunch of young girls or unfortunately these girls are often offered to truckers as prostitutes,” Davidson said.
Davidson says that if truckers identify a potential problem they can call a hotline number. It doesn’t take much time, Davidson insists, but it could save someone’s life.