Lyn Leeburg, with a public relations career spanning more than 30 years, conceived the idea for Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT), created the foundation principles and strategies and led the organization for two years before turning over leadership to her daughter Kendis Paris. Today, Lyn serves as TAT’s communications director.
Truckers Against Trafficking is working!
by Lyn Leeburg, TAT communications director
A decade ago, in March 2009, six women, with no trucking connections, founded Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) to educate, equip, empower and mobilize the trucking – and now the busing – industries to fight human trafficking as part of their everyday jobs. Since then 2,250 calls were made to the National Human Trafficking Hotline (NHTH) by people identifying themselves as truckers between the time the hotline began on Dec. 7, 2007, and July 31, 2018 (These are the latest numbers available from the NHTH). These calls reported a total of 612 cases of potential human trafficking, involving 1,133 potential victims. Prior to 2009 when TAT began, the NHTH reports they had received only three calls total from truckers. Ongoing surveys of truckers reveal that calls to the hotline show only one slice of the data pie, with untracked calls to 911 and local sheriffs’ offices making up the larger portion.
Below are a few scenarios of how truckers are helping in the fight against human trafficking:
On January 19, 2018*, professional driver Arian Taylor pulled into a Stockton, California business to make a delivery at 3:30 a.m. Shortly thereafter, he received a knock on his cab door, only to find a 19-year-old woman standing outside his truck. As he spoke with her, he learned that her friend’s older boyfriend was trying to force her into prostitution. After she had refused and argued with him, he dumped her in the parking lot and sped off. She was cold, exhausted, had no money, no identification, was carrying everything she owned in her arms and was desperate to get back home to Denver. At that point, Arian told her, “I will find a way to get you home.” After getting her warm and giving her water to drink, Arian looked at one of two TAT stickers prominently displayed on his windows (which the victim had been eye-level with when she knocked on his door) and called the National Human Trafficking Hotline. They worked with him to secure the woman shelter for the night, a pre-paid cab ride to get her to that shelter and a chaperoned train ride back to Denver the next day, where she was reunited with a family member. Arian took care of the young woman until she was placed in the cab, and even gave her his personal cell phone number in case she needed anything else.
On October 6, 2018, after watching a couple teenage girls “work the lot” at a truck stop, a husband and wife driving team sent staff at Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) a photo of the car that had brought the girls, which was parked out by the trucks. Along with the photo, they sent a short video of the girls standing outside a truck. TAT staff notified law enforcement at the Attorney General’s Office in the state where the truck stop was located, as well as the appropriate personnel in the corporate office of the truck stop. Corporate office personnel notified Security and the management of the truck stop in question, who sprang into action. A sweep of the lot located the car in the photo. Security got the license plate number, which then yielded the owner’s name and home address. He had four females with him at the lot. When Security attempted to speak with the male driver, he yelled for his girls, who came running, and the car sped out of the lot. Corporate office personnel followed up with the law enforcement in the city, turning over all information gathered to city police.
On July 24, 2018, TAT-trained professional team drivers for Western Distribution, Chris and David were parked at a truck stop in Bemidji, Minnesota when they observed a fortyish-year-old man exit his truck with a teenage girl. They observed the man touching her backside and rubbing on her in a way that did not seem right with the obvious age difference. David followed them into the truck stop, where he observed the younger female as being withdrawn, scared and rather malnourished. Upon reporting the incident to the hotline, Chris left his name and telephone number so law enforcement could call him back if needed. This turned out to be imperative to the case, as Chris provided critical information which enabled law enforcement to track down the driver at a later date/location and his passenger, who turned out to be an 18-year-old, mentally disabled missing person out of Georgia.
On March 5, 2018, Anna* and her husband, an over-the-road driver, were at a truck stop in Lathrop, California, following the day’s delivery. Anna went in to use the restroom. About a minute later, the stall door next to her opened and closed and she heard crying. While washing her hands, a store employee came in asking for Leslie. Anna indicated that wasn’t her name. Another lady also said the same. The store employee said a girl had run into the bathroom, and her dad was frantically looking for her. The other lady commented that there was someone in the last stall. So, the employee knocked on the door and told the girl her dad was looking for her. After a pause, the girl inside said she was busy. The lady repeated that the girl needed to come out as her father was looking for her. Anna then told the employee the man outside might not be the girl’s dad and that he might have been trafficking her because she was crying and didn’t want to come out. “Just because he says he’s her dad, doesn’t mean he is,” Anna explained, “and if he is, he could still be abusive to her. Ask her if she wants to be with him.” When Anna walked out of the bathroom, she saw no man acting frantic outside. After about 20 minutes, the girl still had not come out. The store employees said the man went to get his phone and left. The truck stop manager called the police. The girl came out to talk to the police, and they took her away. She appeared to be about 13. As Anna left the store, the employees and manager were talking and said they had overheard the girl say the man had hurt her.
Keith* contacted the National Human Trafficking Hotline (NHTH) after being parked at a truck stop and being solicited for commercial sex by four separate women over the course of several hours. Keith contacted the Hotline because he was concerned that two of the individuals who knocked on his cab door were underage, an indicator he recognized as a result of the training he received from Truckers Against Trafficking. Additionally, he observed the two adult women and two underage girls getting out of the same vehicle before splitting up and knocking on different truck doors. Although Keith could not see who was driving the vehicle, he noticed that several times an hour, the vehicle would leave the lot, circle around the gas station, and return to park in the lot again to continue observing the women and girls. Keith was able to provide the NHTH with descriptions of the potential victims and the vehicle that dropped them off. At the Hotline Advocate’s encouragement, Keith contacted 911 for an immediate response and the Hotline also reported the situation to trusted law enforcement contacts so they could connect with the local police involved in the investigation.