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Truckers lauded for work against human trafficking

Truckers Against Trafficking now has North Dakota on its radar because of a rise in trafficking.

The Associated Press

5/27/2014

FARGO, N.D. — The director of an organization that recruits truck drivers to help combat human trafficking said Wednesday her group is looking for more participation from truckers in North Dakota, where crimes such as child prostitution and pornography are on the rise.

Kendis Paris, executive director of Denver-based Truckers Against Trafficking, told attendees at the North Dakota Motor Carriers Association convention they should encourage their employees to get involved and call the group's hotline to report criminal activity.

"We haven't received a lot of calls from North Dakota. I think the primary reason is, nobody knows about the number," Paris said afterward. "That is why we are out here."

Paris was joined by North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and U.S. Attorney Timothy Purdon, who said the state's robust economy due to the oil boom and other commerce has brought with it some unsavory clients. Stenehjem's office has investigated about 100 complaints of crimes involving the trafficking or luring of minors in the last six months.

"It's not just western North Dakota. It is going on in Fargo and Grand Forks and other parts of the state," Stenehjem said.

Paris said her group first became aware of increased trafficking in North Dakota when a company from Texas "called us out of the blue" about two years ago to report an influx of illegal activity in the state.

"That was the first time North Dakota became part of my radar screen," she said. "It was someone from a trucking company who cared enough to make that phone call."

Truckers Against Trafficking was founded in 2009 and was granted nonprofit status in 2011. It has produced a training video that lists questions to ask potential victims and the information needed for law enforcement to open an investigation. And it asks them to dial 888-3737-888.

"We want to saturate the trucking industry with this message," Paris said.

Paris said although truckers are obviously part of the demand, since truck stops and rest areas are known to be hotbeds for prostitution, she believes a majority of them want to be part of the solution.

"We've had some truckers tell us that there might have been some unflattering CB chatter," she said when asked if some truckers were upset about being policed by fellow drivers. "But you know what? At the end of the day, I don't think anybody wants those guys in the industry."

Purdon said afterward that his office is investigating cases that "will raise the hair on the back of your neck" and said truckers can make a difference as the "eyes and ears" of the nation's highways.

"We're looking for partners. We need to build cases against traffickers," he said, adding that it cannot be done "without intel."

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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