This month is Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, a national public awareness campaign to inform Americans about human trafficking and educate them on ways to identify signs of trafficking in their communities. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) is supporting this month’s campaign by helping public transit riders identify and report any suspicious human trafficking incidents on the Metro system.
Metro works closely with its law enforcement agencies — including the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Los Angeles Police Department, Long Beach Police Departments and Metro security and private security — to remain vigilant in monitoring for suspicious activities such as human trafficking on public transit.
While human trafficking has not been widely reported on the Metro system, that could change as a result of the extreme economic hardships created by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Human trafficking victims are often transported on buses and trains in the United States.
Metro encourages transit riders to look for several signs of potential human trafficking when riding public transit. Victims often look fearful, depressed, anxious or tense. They are being closely watched. They don’t have possession of their money and they show signs of physical abuse.
“Metro wants to prevent incidences of human trafficking on our system,” said Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington. “We have made a commitment to protect our patrons and to address human trafficking on transit by training our employees and law enforcement contractors on how to identify and report human trafficking incidences.”
Metro’s 11,000 employees, including its bus and rail operators, are trained and educated on how to report suspected human trafficking and help victims who want to file a report. Operators who travel daily through the main trafficking hubs are aware of the signs that someone may require rescue.
Transit riders are encouraged to report incidences they believe may involve human trafficking. Transit riders should call Metro Security at 888.950.SAFE or text 213-788-2777. Alternately, they can use the LA Metro Transit Watch smartphone app to anonymously report suspicious activity — the app also allows users to add photos and videos. The Transit Watch App also supports text messaging.
“The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department — in partnership with federal, state, county and local law enforcement agencies, social service agencies and victim service providers— is committed to ending human trafficking in all its forms in Los Angeles County, with a keen focus on commercially sexually exploited children,” said Lieutenant Christopher Sciacca of the Los Angeles Regional Human Trafficking Taskforce.
Another Metro law enforcement partner, the Los Angeles Police Department, has a Human Trafficking Unit. Its anti-trafficking efforts involve numerous components engaged in a full spectrum of activities, including investigations, prosecutions, services for victims, training, enforcement initiatives to strengthen anti-trafficking partnerships and innovative prevention efforts.
“Bringing traffickers to justice and assisting trafficking survivors are the top priorities of LAPD, Human Trafficking Investigators,” said LAPD Detective Supervisor Mario Gallegos. “When investigating a crime as complex and as devastating as human trafficking, it is neither simple nor straightforward. These efforts are only effective with the support and assistance of our partners in Probation, Department of Children Family services and our Advocate groups.”
The Long Beach Police Department is committed to the proactive enforcement of human trafficking. It has a dedicated unit of detectives who partner with other law enforcement agencies as well as community organizations to identify and rescue victims of human trafficking and prosecute offenders.
To learn more about how Los Angeles County departments and several of the County’s community partners fight against human trafficking, visit http://lacounty.gov/human-trafficking.
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) is currently providing lifeline service for essential trips and frontline workers. Metro continues building the most ambitious transportation infrastructure program in the United States and is working to greatly improve mobility through its Vision 2028 Plan.
Metro has proudly pledged to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Health and Safety Commitment Program to help ensure the safe return of transit riders as the U.S. recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.