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U.S. Department of Transportation Announces Grants to Address Human Trafficking

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) called on the transportation sector to take steps to counter human trafficking, which experts say takes advantage of connections to the U.S. transportation network.

According to DOT, human trafficking affects approximately 24.9 million people globally across all ages, races, backgrounds, and citizenship, generating approximately $150 billion worldwide.

“The pervasiveness and profitability of human trafficking raises daunting challenges for the transportation industry, as the use of transportation and transportation networks figures prominently in human trafficking enterprises within the United States and internationally,” according to a July 2019 DOT report, Combating Human Trafficking in the Transportation Sector.

“Traffickers often rely on the transportation industry in every phase of human trafficking: for recruitment, moving and controlling victims, and for delivering victims to buyers who will complete their exploitation through either commercial sex or forced labor ventures,” the report said. “The limited transportation-related human trafficking data available in the U.S. confirms that victims are being trafficked by airplanes, buses, subways, trains, taxis, rideshares, cruise ships, and private vehicles.”

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced in January 2020 several new measures to address human trafficking where it intersects with transportation. These initiatives included a renewed focus on the “Transportation Leaders Against Human Trafficking” pledge to train the transportation workforce and raise public awareness about human trafficking; the establishment of an annual $50,000 award to incentivize individuals and entities to think creatively and develop innovative solutions to address human trafficking; and $5.4 million in grants administered by the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA’s) Human Trafficking Awareness and Public Safety Initiative to fund projects to prevent human trafficking and other crimes on public transit systems.

The grants to 24 organizations range in value from a few thousand dollars to $1.64 million, and they will help fund projects ranging from awareness campaigns to video surveillance monitoring equipment on mass transit vehicles.

“The funding announced today will empower transit agencies and other organizations to develop local solutions to address human trafficking on buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation,” FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams said in a statement. “Our goal is to build awareness among all transit operators and the traveling public to enable them to recognize and report potential instances of human trafficking.”