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Human Trafficking Awareness

January 10, 2023

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January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. It is a key time for us all as individuals to educate ourselves about human trafficking and learn to spot the signs of trafficking. But really it goes beyond January.

Human trafficking doesn’t just happen in January, undercover, on the dark web, or in far off places. Human trafficking happens every day and we can all be part of the solution by recognizing signs and reporting suspicious activity.

SEPTA is proud to be one of the leading transportation agencies working to prevent this awful crime. In addition to training every frontline SEPTA employee to recognize the characteristics of trafficking and requiring our Transit Police officers to attend special training from the Villanova Law Institute to identify and investigate human trafficking and address commercial exploitation:

In 2014 - SEPTA began installing bilingual signage at Transit and Regional Rail Stations and Bus Loops providing the National Human Trafficking Hotline number for victims and anyone witnessing possible human trafficking. These signs are now part of our standard sign package.

In 2018 - Human Trafficking was added as a report category to the SEPTA Transit Watch app that enables SEPTA customers to discreetly report security and safety issues to SEPTA Transit Police. 

In 2020 - SEPTA General Manager/CEO Leslie Richards joined transportation leaders from across the county at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Put The Brakes On Human Trafficking event in Washington DC. There she signed the Transportation Leaders Against Human Trafficking Pledge, participated in a panel discussion, and was a featured speaker.

In 2023 - SEPTA is partnering with ENON Tabernacle Baptist Church and the Salvation Army Eastern PA & DE to raise awareness in the region and on the system of the Human Trafficking Awareness Hotline.   

The National Human Trafficking Hotline maintains one of the most extensive data sets on the issue of human trafficking in the United States. The statistics contained on this website are based on aggregated information learned through signals -- phone calls, texts, online chats, emails, and online tip reports -- received by the Trafficking Hotline. The Trafficking Hotline uses this data to help human trafficking victims and survivors and to provide the anti-trafficking field with information to help combat all forms of human trafficking.

Since its inception in 2007 - the Human Trafficking Hotline has identified 1,897 cases of human trafficking from Pennsylvania. 4,048 victims were identified in these cases.

In 2021 - 1,080 signals (phone, text, online chat, online form, and email) were received by the Hotline from Pennsylvania - up from 990 in 2020. 

Nationally - 50,123 signals were received by the Hotline. Pennsylvania ranks 9th. 

Since 2005 - Ellyn Jo Waller of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in Philadelphia has been working to help those caught up in human trafficking. Waller - who has an Ed.D. and is wife of Enon Pastor Alyn Waller - founded the She’s My Sister Anti-Human Trafficking Ministry of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in 2011. At the time - her daughters were 13 and 14 - the average age that young women get pulled into human trafficking. 

This ministry hosts annual human trafficking awareness events which benefit the work of The Salvation Army PA & DE’s New Day center in Kensington. Even before starting her own ministry - Waller worked with Covenant House and the Salvation Army to support trafficking survivors. She joined the Philadelphia Anti-Human Trafficking Coalition in 2009, is a member of the Philadelphia Chapter (PA) of the Links, Incorporated, and served as the organization’s National Human Trafficking Chair from 2015-2018. 

The Salvation Army PA & DE’s New Day center provides a consistent, safe, welcoming, and trauma informed environment for women exploited by the commercial sex industry in the Kensington neighborhood of north Philadelphia. New Day believes that women are the experts of their story and aims to create a space where they can work towards reclaiming control over their lives.

All services at New Day Drop-In Center are for female identifying individuals ages 18 and up. The NDDI works specifically for the target population of women exploited by the commercial sex industry in the Kensington neighborhood of North Philadelphia. 

The Drop-In provides season-appropriate clothing, hygiene supplies such as toiletries and tampons, socks, underwear, accessories and food. Women who drop in can also use an on-site shower and bathroom. The Drop-In also allows for women to walk in without any judgement to watch television or take a nap on the couch.

For more info - click here.

Human Trafficking has been found in wide variety of venues within the sex industry - including residential brothels, escort services, fake massage businesses, strip clubs, and street prostitution and has been found in diverse labor settings - including domestic work, small businesses, large farms, and factories.

This video featuring a SEPTA Transit Police Officer outlines the following tips for spotting something that doesn’t look right.

- Does the person appear disconnected or fearful from those around them?

- Are you seeing a child riding the system when school is in session?

- Is a juvenile engaged in sex acts?

- Has the person had a sudden dramatic change in behavior?

- Is the person disoriented or confused, or showing signs of mental or physical abuse

- Does the person have bruises in various stages of healing?

- Is the person fearful, timid, or submissive, or lack freedom of movement?

- Does the person show signs of having been denied food, water, sleep, or medical care?

- Is the person in the company of someone to whom they defer?

If you do suspect something is off, do not confront but instead take the following actions to report the incident:

- Capture a picture if possible

- Use the Transit Watch App. The SEPTA Transit Watch App has incident-reporting features that allow SEPTA riders to discreetly share safety & security tips with SEPTA Transit Police in less than 20 seconds. And it's FREE to download on both the App Store and Google Play. Watch this video. SEPTA Transit Watch is not just for customers with smartphones. Those with old-style flip phones can use “Text A Tip” which allows them to reach SEPTA Transit Police with a simple text message to (215) 234-1911.

- If on SEPTA property - call 215-580-8111

- If not on SEPTA property - call 888-373-7888, 911, or the local police department

Please do your part to recognize the red flags such as someone looking fearful or traveling with minimal or inappropriate luggage or clothing. If you see something - please say something.

Let's end human trafficking together.

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