Rideshare drivers might not be aware that they are transporting a human trafficking victim, but a new law officials are saying is the first of its kind, is aiming to help drivers spot signs.
House Bill 2313, filed this past session by State Representative Senfronia Thompson, requires rideshare companies in Texas to provide training to drivers on how to stop and report human trafficking victims. According to Children At Risk, there has been an increase of rideshare drivers who are unaware that they are transporting a suspected victim.
"Texas is a hub for human trafficking and our state legislature over the last number of years has worked very hard, very diligently to pass a lot of legislation in the fight against trafficking, we’re still not there yet," said President and CEO Bob Sanborn.
Transportation Network Companies such as Uber and Lyft will provide annual online training on human trafficking awareness and prevention. The training will include material on the experience of human trafficking victims, how and why human trafficking takes place in the transportation industry, and more.
Representative Thompson said a lot of trafficking is done through transportation and the bill is another tool that can help drivers aid with prevention.
"They know how people are fooled, abducted, sweet-talked, abused, retaliated against and sometimes get involved in these kinds of situations that they are unable to get themselves out of," she said "But we also know that persons who are driving may not know all of the signs that they need to know that would give them a clue that they may be transporting a person who is being trafficked."
Possible signs drivers may here are: requesting to be dropped off at hidden entrance, insisting on cash payments, coaching someone on how to lie, asking for money or ID, verbal abuse, and discussing job opportunities.
Drivers also might see signs of: emotional abuse and distress, physical abuse and signs of branding, exerting power over the potential victim, travel and transit considerations, kids at unsafe locations, multiple phones and excessive cash, and an unsafe work environment.
"When we combine policy solutions with efforts to raise awareness of human trafficking systematically and at scale. "We can make real inroads into addressing this human rights violation," said Mayor Sylvester Turner.
Mayor Turner said when he took office, human trafficking was made a top priority for the city and since 2016 major strides have been made. Through the Mayor's Office of Human Trafficking and Domestic Violence, the city has implemented policy solutions, mobilized city departments, and heightened all forms of human trafficking awareness.
The city partnered with a local taxi company on human trafficking awareness signage and even took it a step further by providing English and Spanish communication with drivers on awareness and hotspots in the city through email and text messages.
"While it’s rare for trafficking to occur on our platform, even one instance is too many," said Harry Hartfield, Uber's Senior Manager of Public Affairs. "We’re hopeful that we can see this done in other parts of the country."
The law will take effect September 1.
Uber stepped up and gave the City of Houston a $50,000 rideshare grant that the city distributed between 12 domestic violence and human trafficking non-profits. To report human trafficking, the National Human Trafficking hotline can be reached at 1-888-373-7888 or by text at 233733.