LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — January is Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month and the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority wants to educate riders by encouraging them to look out for potential victims on public transit.
Officials said Tuesday more people may be trafficked now more than ever due to hardships created by the COVID-19 pandemic, and victims are often transported on buses and trains in the United States.
All 11,000 Metro employees in the county are trained on how to report human trafficking and help victims who want to file a report. Metro also works with local law enforcement to monitor suspicious activities on public transit.
“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.”
According to Metro officials, victims often appear fearful, depressed, anxious, or tense, and they are often being watched closely. They likely will not be in possession of any money and may show signs of physical abuse.
“Bringing traffickers to justice and assisting trafficking survivors are the top priorities of LAPD human trafficking investigators,” Los Angeles Police Department Detective Supervisor Mario Gallegos said. “When investigating a crime as complex and as devastating as human trafficking, it is neither simple nor straightforward.”
Metro also works with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Long Beach Police Department, Metro security, and private security companies to combat human trafficking on the transit system.
If a transit rider sees someone they believe may be a victim of human trafficking, they can call Metro security at 888-950-SAFE or text 213-788-2777. People can anonymously report suspicious activity through the L.A. Metro Transit Watch smartphone app.
More information about efforts against human trafficking can be found here.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)