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Human Trafficking Awareness Month

January 8, 2024

Human trafficking is a crime that is often hidden in plain sight and is a modern form of slavery with nearly 25 million victims worldwide - including in the United States.

Like any business - human trafficking typically depends on transportation systems to operate.

Traffickers often rely upon the transportation industry in every phase of human trafficking: for recruitment, moving and controlling victims, and for delivering victims to buyers who will complete their exploitation through either commercial sex or forced labor ventures.

Traffickers use all modes of transportation to conduct their activities.

Traffickers use public transportation because it is low cost, offers greater anonymity in buying fare cards, and provides less direct interaction with government or transit officials.

In fact - in a recent study - 33% of survivors stated that public buses were used in the facilitation of their exploitation.

Traffickers also use bus and train stations to recruit victims which is especially true for runaway youth and homeless individuals who frequent these transit hubs.

Studies show access to transportation is a key obstacle for many survivors trying to leave their trafficking situation. Victims may need to use a bus or rideshare vehicle to leave their trafficker and unfortunately they may not be able to afford one or policies such as needing an app to access a fare may prevent them from escaping their trafficker.

Training for staff on how to identify/respond to human trafficking and developing an employee anti-trafficking and demand reduction policy are critical in disrupting human trafficking.

SEPTA is proud to be one of the leading transportation agencies working to prevent human trafficking. Every frontline employee is trained to recognize the characteristics of trafficking and SEPTA Transit Police officers attend the Villanova Law Institute to learn how to investigate these crimes.

It is also important that the National Human Trafficking Hotline number be displayed and promoted.

SEPTA began installing permanent signage in 2014 at select Transit and Regional Rail stations and the signs promoting the hotline are now part of SEPTA’s standard sign package. 

SEPTA continues to partner with Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in Philadelphia and the Salvation Army Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware to raise awareness. Dr. Ellyn Jo Waller of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church founded the She’s My Sister Anti-Human Trafficking Ministry – which hosts events to support the Salvation Army Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware’s New Day Center in Kensington. The center provides a consistent, safe, and welcoming environment for women exploited by the commercial sex industry.

While January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month – human trafficking happens every day and SEPTA encourages everyone to be part of the solution by learning how to spot the signs which include:

  • Appearing malnourished

  • Showing signs of physical injuries and abuse

  • Avoiding eye contact, social interaction, and authority figures/law enforcement

  • Seeming to adhere to scripted or rehearsed responses in social interaction

  • Lacking official identification documents

  • Appearing destitute/lacking personal possessions

  • Poor physical or dental health 

  • Tattoos/ branding on the neck and/or lower back

Human trafficking is a report category on the SEPTA Transit Watch app – which gives riders the ability to discreetly report safety and security issues to SEPTA Transit Police. You can also contact SEPTA Transit Police with a simple text message to (215) 234-1911 or the Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

If you see something - then say something. Let’s work together to put an end to this horrific crime.