TARTA buses line up at Erie and Madison in downtown Toledo.
Toledo’s TARTA public bus system announced today that it will immediately launch a public awareness campaign about human trafficking that will include training drivers on how to identify it and how to respond.
New signage on buses and shelters will inform people how to notify drivers if they need help and what other community resources are available, said TARTA General Manager James Gee, who made the announcement during a news conference held at One Government Center in downtown Toledo. The purpose of the conference was to announce that TARTA was joining the local Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition.
“Tragically, human trafficking affects a lot of people in our community,” said Mr. Gee, who partially quoted a speech President Barack Obama’s recently gave about the issue: “Our fight against human trafficking is one of the great human rights causes of our time.”
Added Mr. Gee: “It’s barbaric and has no place in a civilized world.”
Human tracking has long been a problem in Toledo, Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp said. He noted that in 1972 he was part of a vice squad assigned to patrolling bus stations where predators would watch for children and women and offer them food, clothing and shelter, “then came the payback; putting them on the streets.”
Toledo is considered an origin city, with girls recruited and shipped to other states, officials at the conference said.
The National Human Trafficking Resource Center has ranked Toledo as fifth in the nation for investigations, arrests and rescues of children forced into prostitution.
— Federico Martinez