Helping transit employees identify and report human trafficking when they encounter it on the streets of the Greater Louisville area is the goal of a new training effort announced Thursday by Attorney General Andy Beshear.
At Union Station, Beshear and J. Barry Barker, the Transit Authority of River City (TARC) executive director, rolled out human trafficking awareness training and reporting protocols that focus on the specific needs of nearly 400 TARC managers, dispatchers and bus drivers.
Beshear said trafficking occurs in countless locations in every community in this state, including at bus terminals where traffickers try to recruit victims and on busses where victims are transported.
“TARC employees are among those who serve as the eyes and ears of our community, and this training will help ensure they are in a better position to spot potential human trafficking situations and safely assist victims,” Beshear said. “Our partnership with TARC presents a momentous opportunity to confront human trafficking throughout Greater Louisville.”
Beshear said TARC will be a strong partner to help fight one of the nation’s fasting growing crimes because it has more than 15 million customers on 41 routes in five counties in Kentucky and southern Indiana.
“TARC is proud to partner with the Attorney General to bring awareness to and support their efforts in leading the fight against human trafficking,” Barker said. “As an agency that interacts with the public every day, the training provided by the Attorney General’s office positions us to be of great service in recognizing and reporting signs of trafficking in our region.”
Beshear’s Office of Child Abuse and Human Trafficking Prevention and Prosecution is prepared to train TARC employees beginning Oct. 29.
The training includes guidance on the signs of human trafficking, questions to ask suspected victims and reporting protocols. Awareness signage, including window clings for over 200 buses, a wallet card for each driver and brochures will be distributed at the training thanks to Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) Busing on the Lookout program.
Beshear said he is thankful for the support of Truckers Against Trafficking, an organization that his office worked with to train Kentucky commercial drivers and truck-stop employees on how to recognize and report human trafficking.
Beshear also recognized Maryhurst on Thursday, a nonprofit agency that helps survivors of abuse and young women who are vulnerable to human trafficking, for hosting human trafficking training for their staff and leadership.
“Even though trafficking can be difficult to see, there are clear warning signs that anyone can spot with the right training,” said Judy Lambeth, president and chief executive officer of Maryhurst. “The girls who come to us have terribly upsetting stories full of pain and trauma, most often inflicted in secret. We’re supportive of the TARC program because it will empower our system to better expose – and ultimately remedy – situations where trafficking is common.”
Other public and private agencies including all Kentucky Transportation Cabinet highway incident safety professionals, the Kentucky Baptist Convention, hotel and hospitality industry employees, firefighters, EMTs and paramedics have joined Beshear’s fight against trafficking, allowing the office to train more than 5,000 individuals statewide.
Thursday’s announcement is the latest in a string of moves Beshear has taken to turn his office into the leading state agency fighting human trafficking – a crime that often targets children for sex or labor services.
Upon taking office in 2016, Beshear teamed up with Catholic Charities of Louisville to secure a three-year, $1.5 million federal grant to help train law enforcement, increase victim services and hire the state’s first full-time human trafficking investigator.
Beshear’s office currently has 15 open human trafficking cases, and over the course of 2018 the office has been involved in 31 arrests or citations involving the crime. In February, the office secured a 20-year sentence against former Campbell County District Judge Timothy Nolan on numerous felony charges, including human trafficking of adults and minors.
Last month, Beshear joined Rep. Dennis Keene, of Wilder, to announce legislation that would grant the Office of the Attorney General the ability to investigate crimes, like human trafficking that can occur across multiple jurisdictions.
If a human trafficking victim is in immediate danger dial 911 and report suspected human trafficking of a child to 877-KYSAFE1. Victims of human trafficking may call or text the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888.