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Michigan State Police, truck drivers teaming up to fight human trafficking

Posted at 1:33 PM, Jan 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-10 13:33:44-05

DETROIT (WXYZ) — With nearly 25 million estimated victims worldwide, human trafficking is a major issue. It's something police say they need help to fight.

“Once people understand what this crime is, they want to do something about it,” said Kylla Linier, deputy director for the nonprofit organization Truckers Against Trafficking.

The group works to help educate truck drivers to look for signs of trafficking.

“Truck drivers are the eyes and ears of our nation's roadways," Linier said. "They see other things people don't see. They’re trained to be vigilant and they happen to intersect with victims at some of the locations that traffickers take them to, whether that's hotels and motels, city streets, truck stops and rest areas."

This week, Truckers Against Trafficking is teaming up with the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance and Michigan State Police to spread awareness about human trafficking.

“All of our officers are on the road and every contact or traffic stop they have, they’re passing out wallet cards or window decals or literature,” Michigan State Police Lt. Chris Keller said. "We're just multiplying our efforts. The more truck drivers, the more industry members, the more citizens we can get this information to and raise awareness about human trafficking, the better chance we have to have potential rescues of victims.”

Keller says random tips are often what could save someone’s life. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, nearly 300 cases and over 400 victims were identified from calls in Michigan.

“This is an opportunity to have that industry that’s out and about and is on those major highways to be on the lookout and report those situations,” said Jake Elovirta, director of Enforcement Programs for the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance.

Truckers like Gary Neino of Canton say human trafficking is talked about at union meetings and safety meetings, training drivers like him to join the fight against a global problem.

"Yeah, it’s always in the back of my mind,” Neino said. “It's important, it’s very important and I take it seriously as many truck drivers do.”

As the weeklong initiative begins, those involved hopes it spreads beyond truckers, urging everyone to report what doesn't seem right.

“If you see something and you say something, you could save a life,” Keller said.

“The way the trucking industry has embraced this work is an example for other industries around this county,” Linier said.

To report suspected human trafficking, you can contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 888-373-7888.