A federal partnership was unveiled Thursday involving the Departments of Homeland Security and Transportation, along with Amtrak, that will seek to combat human trafficking by training more than 8,000 front-line transportation employees and Amtrak police officers to identify trafficking victims and perpetrators and report suspected cases.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman said the partnership will use "training and awareness materials" developed by the Homeland Security and Transportation departments to deny the use of the U.S. transportation system as an "enabler in these criminal acts."
Homeland Security has described the trafficking of men, women and children for sex and forced labor around the world as "one of the most heinous crimes" it investigates, saying that in its worst manifestation, human trafficking is akin to modern-day slavery.
Estimates suggest there are more than 20 million human trafficking victims worldwide. The entrapment and exploitation of mostly women and children are thought to generate billions of dollars each year.
"Today, we pledge to do more to combat human trafficking by broadening our network of partners to help us identify and rescue victims and help bring the perpetrators to justice," Ms. Napolitano said in announcing the partnership. "We're grateful to have the participation of Amtrak and the Department of Transportation in this important effort, which will help save lives, protect innocent victims and prevent this form of modern-day slavery."
In 2010, Homeland Security launched what it called the Blue Campaign, which sought to unify department components to more effectively combat human trafficking through enhanced public awareness, training, victim assistance and law enforcement investigations.
The Blue Campaign described human trafficking as the use of force, fraud or coercion to compel someone into labor servitude or commercial sexual exploitation. It also noted that every minor exploited for commercial sex was a victim of human trafficking, even without force, fraud or coercion.
Mr. LaHood said that in addition to the partnership, the Transportation Department is working with all modes of transportation to help stop the flow of human trafficking.
"Raising awareness can save lives, and we all have a responsibility to keep an eye out for these activities," he said.
Mr. Boardman said Amtrak Supports the Homeland Security and Transportation departments' initiative to improve human trafficking awareness in the transportation industry and "is proud to be the first partner in a program that will expand across the transportation sector."
In March, President Obama directed his administration to redouble efforts to eliminate human trafficking, reaffirming what he described as America's commitment to leading the global movement against that crime. The administration called stopping trafficking "one of the great human rights causes of our time."
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