ITE Journal July 2018 - 47

The Role of the Transportation Profession
The overall roadway system in the United States, including
Interstates, are overseen by Departments of Transportation (DOTs),
which function as the "stewards" of these systems. In addition to
performing the basic functions of planning, design, construction,
operations and maintenance of the system, most DOTs currently
have well established programs to detect, discourage, and deter
the overloading of commercial vehicles.  The primary underlying
motive for overloading commercial vehicles is profit attributable
to larger loads being carried. This profit, however, is derived by
abusing the roadway system, since such overloaded vehicles can
be dangerous to the traveling public and cause disproportionate
damage to the infrastructure.  As a result, DOTs regularly partner
with law enforcement and private industry to develop comprehensive programs involving training/outreach, deployment of detection
technologies, and data analytics to combat this type of abuse of
the transportation system.  This established pattern of interagency
cooperation can be employed to deal with the problem of human
trafficking, which similarly functions as a profit-motivated illegal
abuse of the roadway systems.

Training/Outreach Efforts
Generally, officials within the transportation industry know that the
transportation system is being used to facilitate human trafficking
and there are existing programs aimed at furthering this awareness.
For example, some state DOTs (e.g., Delaware, Iowa, and Minnesota)
currently operate human trafficking awareness campaigns. There
are excellent examples of private sector programs as well. One of
the most important players in fighting human trafficking along
Interstates and other highways is Truckers Against Trafficking.21,22
They partner with shipping companies, law enforcement, state
governments, and manufacturers to raise awareness and distribute
training materials on how to identify victims and report abuse. 
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security launched the Blue
Campaign in 2010, with the goal of fighting human trafficking
by, "enhanced public awareness, training, victim assistance, [and]
law enforcement investigations".23 The Blue Campaign has since
formed the foundation for programs in the airline and public
transportation industries to bring awareness to human trafficking.
For example, the Blue Lightning Initiative initiated by the U.S.
Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection,
and the Department of Transportation functions in conjunction
with the FAA Extension, Safety, and Security Act of 2016 requiring
flight attendants to be trained in "recognizing and responding
to potential human trafficking victims".24,25 The Blue Campaign
has been working with Amtrak to train its 20,000 employees.  As
a result of a partnership between the Department of Homeland
Security, the American Bus Associations, and the United Motor
Coach Association, Greyhound is in the process of training all of

its bus drivers.  Many municipalities put posters in local transit
systems alerting travelers to human trafficking indicators (e.g.,
airports, train stations, and bus stations in Alabama are required
to display information about the Human Trafficking Hotline).  Law
enforcement agents who work with public transportation also
receive training.  U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will
sometimes set up checkpoints or have inspections on intercity buses
to look for traffickers and victims.  Awareness campaigns within
the transportation system can even be an important source of data
essential to mitigate trafficking. Between 2007-2017, the National
Human Trafficking Hotline, operated by the Polaris Project,
received over 75,000 tips that had moderate to high indicators of
human trafficking.26

Advanced Technology Applications
Numerous state DOTs have deployed networks of cameras and
sensors as part of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) for
monitoring traffic congestion, responding to crashes, and providing
smart tolling systems. For example, there are sensors on freeways
to measure congestion, at traffic signals to optimize timing, at
crosswalks to determine the presence of pedestrians, etc. Sensors
have been used within the transportation system for non-transportation purposes. During disease outbreaks such severe acute
respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in Singapore or the recent
Ebola crisis in West Africa, thermal-imagining sensors were set up
in airports to detect passengers with fevers.
The devices used in these systems can be leveraged to combat
human trafficking, thanks to advances in digital video processing
and data analysis. For example, camera footage can be analyzed
to track vehicles that are either known or suspected to be used by
traffickers. Advanced video processing techniques, such as license
plate recognition (LPR), make and model recognition (MMR), and
vehicle color recognition (VCR), can identify either specific vehicles
or classes of vehicles and can be "trained" to recognize patterns
that could be helpful in the detection of trafficking activities.27 A
combination of MMR and LPR can combat fraudulent license plates
by comparing the detected model against the registration database.
These techniques allow DOTs to utilize their existing camera
system to better effect without requiring large-scale investment.

Innovative Data Analytics
The transportation enterprise composed of DOTs and their collaborating partners currently collect and analyze enormous amounts
of data. In addition to the traffic-related data, commercial vehicle
technologies continuously capture data on vehicles and drivers. The
same is true for law enforcement agencies that collect data as part of
their case management and tracking efforts. This data is rich with
elements that could show potential patterns in human trafficking
and other abuses of the transportation system.
w w w .i t e.o r g

J u ly 2018

47


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of ITE Journal July 2018

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