PSTA Receives Grant to Fight Human Trafficking
Florida ranks third n the U.S. in human trafficking cases reported by states. Many abusers use public transportation to move nearly half of human trafficking victims.
PINELLAS COUNTY – The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority was awarded $43,630 in federal grants to combat human trafficking.
Allocated by the U.S. Department of Transportation, these funds will be used to train PSTA employees to recognize the signs of human trafficking and assist law enforcement in catching abusers.
“Human traffickers know that to exploit their victims without getting caught, they need to operate in the shadows. Our bus drivers and transit employees are on the frontlines in the fight against trafficking – serving as on-the-ground eyes and ears for our community,” U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, said in announcing the grant. “This grant supports training for PSTA staff to help them recognize the signs of trafficking and to alert officials, with the goal that their next stop will be the traffickers’ last.”
In partnership with DOT, Truckers Against Human Trafficking, and the Department of Homeland Security, the PSTA program, The Eyes of the City, consists of training sessions like looking for signs of a person being disoriented or confused, or showing signs of mental or physical abuse.
PSTA officials said safety is a number one priority for PSTA, not only for drivers but also riders. To date, 117 bus operators have been trained.
“This money will help spread awareness and further our training with our drivers,” said Adriana Rodriguez, RISK Coordinator for PSTA and Eyes of the City creator, “It will help us continue to make a difference in our community.”
Currently, Florida ranks third in the U.S. in human trafficking cases reported by states, behind only California and Texas. According to the Polaris Project, many abusers use public transportation to move nearly half of human trafficking victims.
“I’m thankful to the U.S. Department of Transportation for recognizing how vital this training is for our operators to recognize signs of someone needing help, as well as Adriana spearheading this important issue in our community, “said Brad Miller, PSTA chief executive officer, “Since our nearly 400 bus operators are out in the community on a daily basis, it makes sense to take advantage of their eyes to help combat this serious issue.”
The federal money comes from FTA’s Innovations in Transit Public Safety funding. The primary purpose of this grant is to identify innovative solutions to reduce or eliminate human trafficking occurring on transit systems. The Eyes of the City was created in May of 2019 and is the first in the Tampa Bay region to educate bus drivers on this issue. The next class will be Feb. 11.
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