Transportation hubs working to combat human trafficking

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - January is human trafficking awareness month and our local transportation hubs are doing their part to reduce trafficking operations in our community.

Like any business, human traffickers rely on many forms of transportation to move their victims.

Michael Moreno is the RTC Public Affairs Manager in Reno.

"Because of our proximity to California and eastern states, northern Nevada is a thoroughfare for that activity to take place," said Moreno.

That's why our local community is working to end trafficking operations.

In 2019, the FBI tracked approximately 1,900 human trafficking cases throughout the United States.

About 90 percent of them were sex exploitation cases.

"In some of the cases for example that we worked over the last year was successful prosecutions and arrests," said Michael Hickok, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the FBI.

"We've been able to identify further victims through those investigations in over five states," explained Hickok. "We'll have our task force go do those interviews, make sure those resources are available as part of victim services and make sure their voices are heard in the prosecution."

Hickok said this is up from the approximately 670 cases and 480 convictions in 2018.

So the need to raise awareness and spot human trafficking signs are crucial.

Brian Kulpin is Vice President of Marketing and Public Affairs of Reno-Tahoe Int. Airport.

He said the airport implemented a safe place program back in August 2019.

"We're only the second airport to do that and we want to let you know if there's an issue there are professional people here who wear these badges that are ready to step in and help you with anything you may need," said Kulpin.

Airport employees brush up on their human trafficking training every 2 years.

"They're studying a video on that on people who have been trafficked themselves who consulted on the video and that video has become pretty popular in the airport world and is being used in other airports as well," added Kulpin.

RTC is in the early stages of implementing a program, as bus stops are easy sites to recruit and exploit.

"It's a very serious issue and it's one where we as a community want to be aware of so we can stop the human trafficking take place right here in Northern Nevada," added Moreno.

Hickok said the FBI does a lot of community outreach to spread awareness.

"Many of the stereotypes we think of when we're dealing with these kind of cases really don't hold up very well to the reality of it," said Hickok. "That's one of the things about keeping your mind open with things you're seeing that make you uncomfortable. There's probably a reason for that."

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