CAT bus drivers training to spot human trafficking

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Police are getting an extra set of eyes to find victims of violence and human trafficking.

More than 100 Capitol Area Transit drivers, operators, and dispatchers are learning how they can help victims of human trafficking, an issue the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg says is going on everywhere, including here in Harrisburg.

“We have to problem solve and figure out how we can get this victim here safely,” said Rhonda Hendrickson, Vice President of Programs at the YWCA. Last year, the YWCA helped more than 4,000 victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking. They say Harrisburg is a problem area, as thousands of cars pass through central Pennsylvania daily.

“These things are happening here. We really have to educate ourselves and the community members about what to look for,” said Hendrickson.

Educating people like CAT employees.

“I did have a situation that a lady did run up to the bus and did want to get on, but this has been 10 years ago at least. I did let her on, closed the door, and kept moving,” CAT bus driver Anthony Green said.

If drivers see a suspicious situation or are approached by a victim, they will call a dispatcher who will send a supervisor or the police.

“We’re not putting on our superhero costumes and going and stopping it. We’re following the basic rules that keep the employees involved safe but also address the problem,” CAT General Manager Tom Reynolds said.

The new training is part of an anti-violence campaign with the YWCA as well as a campaign by PennDOT to fight human trafficking.

“We see stuff that everybody else doesn’t see. We are in places where there’s probably a lot going on that we didn’t know, but now we do,” Green said.

The employees are also learning how to spot missing or runaway children at areas like malls and transit centers. Officials say they are often targeted as victims of human trafficking.

“There’s always a potential for trouble in some nature. For the people that want to see future victims that they can bring into the human trafficking area, that’s where they will look for them,” said Reynolds.

Buses will get Safe Places stickers in the coming weeks.

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