Iowa DOT News

National Slavery and Human Traffic Prevention Month: US Attorney and Iowa DOT collaboration

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Jan. 30, 2015 - The United States Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa and Iowa Department of Transportation's Office of Motor Vehicle Enforcement (MVE) joined forces at the Flying J Travel Plaza and Road Ranger Truck Stop in Evansdale, Iowa, over the lunch hour on January 30, 2015, to bring awareness to the multi-million dollar criminal enterprise of human trafficking. 

President Barack Obama proclaimed January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. In his proclamation, he expressed we all should be working together to combat human trafficking, prosecute the perpetrators, and help victims recover and rebuild their lives. President Obama stated, “We stand with the survivors, advocates, and organizations dedicated to building a world where our people and our children are not for sale.” 

US Attorney Kevin W. Techau joined forces with MVE Chief David Lorenzen, at the two truck stops near Waterloo, Iowa, to address the national criminal enterprise of human trafficking, a term for modern-day slavery. Techau noted, “Human trafficking is a scourge that threatens lives across the globe. It happens every minute of every day. Traffickers recruit out of our schools, online, in shopping malls, as well as the streets and other locations.” He further noted, “These victims are often women and girls pressed into prostitution, but they are also men, women, and children who are ordered to work in restaurants, massage parlors, and private homes for no pay under deplorable conditions. These vulnerable victims need to be identified and rescued.” 

United States Attorneys’ Offices across the country, in partnership with the DOJ’s Human Trafficking Prevention Unit and Child Exploitation and Obscenity Division, have played a significant role in prosecuting human traffickers. Over 800 cases between fiscal years 2009-2014 were prosecuted for labor and sex trafficking crimes. 

In 2009, Truckers Against Trafficking (or TAT), a nonprofit organization, was created as a way to bring education, awareness and empowerment to truck drivers across the nation to spot and report signs of human trafficking. Truck drivers are often in areas where trafficking can occur. Being able to spot the signs and knowing how to report suspicious behavior can go a long way in fighting this crime. TAT Executive Director, Kendis Paris endorses Iowa’s collaborative approach. “Bringing law enforcement and key industry stakeholders together to further awareness and combat trafficking is what our organization is all about,” Ms. Paris notes that Iowa has set the standard for the rest of the nation with its proactive approach. 

Chief Lorenzen serves on TAT’s national board and has been active in addressing this issue within the state. “It was common sense that thrust Iowa into becoming active in fighting this hideous criminal nightmare. Our officers take this initiative seriously and interact with trucker drivers and concerned citizens daily.” 

He highlighted the department’s numerous initiatives that serve as a model around the nation, stressing, “A conversation about fighting human trafficking occurs with every truck driver his 130 officers encounter.” He noted that Iowa’s model includes the distribution of wallet cards and window clings to drivers following each encounter with department officers.  Educational materials are available at rest stops and weigh stations. TAT’s logo and national hotline number is prominently displayed on the department’s website. Additionally, last year training for enforcement agencies along the Interstate 80 and 35 corridors was held. Chief Lorenzen also mentioned that his department has a strong working relationship with the Iowa Motor Truck Association and various motor carriers centering on this initiative. 

Techau and Lorenzen pledged to keep this issue on the front burner as they continue their collaborative relationship to educate, investigate, prosecute, and help victims rebuild their lives. 

The Truckers Against Trafficking website is a good resource to inform truck drivers and other travelers on the issues involved.

For further information, contact Steve Young at 319-363-6333 or [email protected]


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