United Family trains drivers to be truckers against sex trafficking

Updated: Jan. 16, 2020 at 6:17 PM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Truck drivers at Llano Logistics, the distribution center for United Family stores, have completed the “Truckers Against Trafficking” training to help be eyes and ears in areas where authorities can’t always be.

“Being in the Hub City, a lot of traffic comes through here and we have drivers that are here, out on the roads every day and we though it was great opportunity to at least make our people aware of a problem that we know is growing not only in our community but across the United States,” Llano Logistics General Manger Cash Eagan said.

On Thursday, a group of drivers heard from representatives from Voice of Hope and the Lubbock Area United Way, a supplement to their training. Both agencies are working to put an end to trafficking. Voice of Hope said it assisted 60 victims of trafficking in 2019. Their ages range from 15 to 54.

“For a long time we thought it was a problem that happened on foreign soil or maybe just in bigger cities but it is absolutely happening in everybody’s backyard,” Executive Director Kristin Murray said. “It tends to follow big events. It tends to follow highways. It’s a very kind of transient crime because they don’t want to stay anywhere long enough to get caught.”

That’s why authorities turn to truck drivers, who are often on the road and in establishments or businesses where victims and their captors are.

“You’re going to look for somebody who is being controlled by somebody else, who doesn’t have the freedom to leave,” Murray said. “A lot of time they don’t possess their own IDs so they are dependent on somebody else. They might frequent truck stops because they may be in between cities. You may see a group of people together who may be controlled by one individual that can’t make some of their own decisions. Especially with truck drivers, we would look for truck stops and those different places where they might also be there trying to solicit business.”

Gary Hansen, a driver for Llano Logistics, told KCBD he covers about 2,700 miles of road. He said it was surprising to hear how big the issue is and to know there are small children involved.

“I’m hoping I never see anything like this happen but if I do, I know what to do,” Hansen said. “I’m more aware of it and I do keep my eyes out more when I do go to truck stops and look around more.”

Llano Logistics hopes the education has been a positive experience for drivers and a way to give back to the community.

“Our challenge to them is just to be alert,” Eagan said. “That’s part of their daily job anyways, but be alert and look for certain criteria, certain situations that may not look right and really just report it to authorities. We can get some eyes and ears out there to see if things are right or wrong.”

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