Contact: Diann Hodges
Phone: (512) 832-7027
Date: Jan. 29, 2020
AUSTIN — Texas leads the nation when it comes to active federal human trafficking cases. In an effort to stop this practice, TxDOT maintenance crews, HERO drivers and contractors participated on Wednesday in a half-day training to learn how to spot and report crimes. The training event kicked off with a video statement from Governor Greg Abbott as well as remarks from Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott and TxDOT Executive Director James Bass.
"Texas continues to be a leader in the fight against human trafficking thanks to agencies like TxDOT who do their part to protect the vulnerable, help survivors recover, and bring traffickers to justice," the First Lady said. "Nothing on earth is more powerful than Texans helping Texans, and if we continue to join together to protect and defend the victims of human trafficking, I have no doubt that we will eradicate this heinous crime once and for all."
Human trafficking is modern-day slavery and involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. A study released by the University of Texas in 2017 estimated there were more than 300,000 human trafficking victims at any given time in Texas.
“Nearly 25 million people across the globe are victims of human trafficking, and this crime involves traffickers using our highways to move victims from city to city” said Bass. “As transportation leaders, we can have a direct impact on illegal activity by educating and training our employees and bringing public awareness to the issue.”
On Jan. 28, Bass joined United States Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and other transportation leaders across the country in Washington, D.C., to pledge support for ending human trafficking as part of the Transportation Leaders Against Human Trafficking initiative.
Today’s event in Austin is the first of its kind hosted by TxDOT and marks the expansion of TxDOT’s “On the Road to End Human Trafficking” campaign, a statewide effort that began last year to raise awareness, increase vigilance and report signs of this crime. In this awareness effort, TxDOT joins the Texas Governor’s Commission for Women and other state and local partners.
“I believe everyone in this room has the power to help end human trafficking,” Tucker Ferguson, TxDOT Austin District Engineer, told attendees. “That is why are placing placards with reference information about how to spot and report human trafficking in all of our TxDOT vehicles, along with a dashboard sticker that includes a hotline number to report suspicious activity.”
In addition to educating employees and contractors to help eradicate this criminal activity, TxDOT is raising public awareness through signs in TxDOT’s Travel Information Centers and Safety Rest Areas across the state.
The public is encouraged to use a toll-free, 24/7 confidential phone number, (888) 373-7888, to report suspected trafficking; victims are encouraged to call 911. TxDOT’s human trafficking materials are available for download and use at TxDOT.gov.