SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Local agencies this week are joining a nationwide effort to bring more awareness to human trafficking.

“Human trafficking remains a growing concern in Missouri, particularly along the interstate corridors,” said MoDOT Director Patrick McKenna. “That makes uniting the efforts of everyone in the transportation sector of vital importance in combatting this rapidly expanding criminal enterprise.”

Also joining the initiative is the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

“Educating commercial truck drivers, motor carriers, law enforcement, local public on awareness of human trafficking,” said MSHP Sgt. Mike McClure. “What signs to look for and what to do in those situations.”

According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, there were 240 human trafficking cases reported in Missouri in 2021. 

“It could be somebody that has immigrated to the United States that’s an adult that somebody now powers over them with coercion, meaning that I’ve got something that means something to you that I can take away,” said McClure. “I’m holding that above you unless you do what I ask you to do, so I can make a profit.”

MSHP said signs of human trafficking are not always obvious and may include:

-The presence of an older “boyfriend” or “girlfriend

-Travel with an older male/female who isn’t a guardian

-Signs of psychological coercion, such as depression, anxiety, and/or an overly submissive attitude

-Lack of control over his/her schedule, money, and/or items proving identification

-Physical trauma (bruises, cuts, burns, scars)

-Poor health

-Coached/rehearsed responses to questions

-Substance abuse or addictions, selling drugs

-Homelessness

Law enforcement said truck drivers can be key in spotting human trafficking.

Patrick Evans, who is a trucker, said he is glad people are working to spread awareness.

“It’s troubling because it’s going on all over the country,” said Evans. “All over the world.”

McClure said if you see someone who might be in trouble, ask them if they need help. People are asked to call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text BeFree (233733).