U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, right, Amtrak CEO and President Joseph Boardman, left, and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano announce a partnership to combat human trafficking on Amtrak trains. (Photo: Jim Watson, AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON -- Amtrak, in collaboration with federal agencies, plans
to train 8,000 employees nationwide about the dangers of human
trafficking and the signs that go along with the often hidden crime.
materials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S.
Department of Transportation, Amtrak workers in all of its service areas
-- 46 states, Washington, D.C., and Canada -- will learn how to
identify trafficking victims and how to report potential crimes,
officials announced Thursday.
"We welcome partnerships that
expand the reach of individuals who can help us to identify potential
human trafficking victims," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano
said. "Transportation workers, including Amtrak police, train
conductors, and ticket counter staff and others come into contact with
thousands of people on a daily basis, making them well positioned to
identify situations that don't seem quite right."
that, once victims are identified, her agency can prosecute traffickers
and bring justice to thousands caught up in such enterprises. Last
year, U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement initiated more than 700
human trafficking investigations that resulted in more than 900 arrests,
400 indictments and 270 convictions, she said.
As part of the new
initiative, Amtrak managers will view online videos about trafficking,
and regularly scheduled crew briefings will including talks about
trafficking victims, said Joseph Boardman, president and CEO of the
There is no indication that Amtrak trains have been
used for human trafficking, Boardman said. However, he sees the plans as
preventing the crime from making its way onto trains.
want to ignore that there is a problem going on and not be helpful," he
said. Airline employees already receive similar trafficking training
through the Blue Lightning Initiative launched in January, said Ray
LaHood, U.S. Secretary of Transportation.
"We cannot let the
American transportation system be an enabler to these criminal acts,"
LaHood said. "Raising awareness can save lives. Anytime someone travels
by plane, train, bus or car they have a responsibility to keep an eye
out for these activities. It can be as simple as a passenger alerting
staff that they see a child on a train that doesn't appear to know the
people she is with or an Amtrak employee calling in with a tip."
Meanwhile, Boardman said he hopes to expand the program in the future.
is still much more work to do," Napolitano said. "Our fight against
human trafficking is one of the great human rights causes of our time."