Today, January 11th, is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Blue Campaign is the largest one-day awareness initiative of the year, in which the public is encouraged to wear blue - the international color of human trafficking awareness - and post photos of themselves, family, friends and co-workers, on social media with the hashtag, #WearBlueDay. The goal is to pledge solidarity with the more than 25 million victims worldwide - and prevent trafficking before it starts.
Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has not only changed the way so many of us live, work, and go to school - but has also created situations that may actually increase the risk of human trafficking, parrticularly among groups or individuals that are at risk of exploitation. For example, ongoing school closures means that children and teens are spending more time online - increasing the risks that could potentially lead to trafficking. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported an increase from 2 million to 4.2 million reports of online exploitation from March to April 2020.
Education is the first step to becoming an advocate and learning how to stop these heinous crimes - and PennDOT plays an important role in these efforts. Since 2016, PennDOT has been a national leader in working with the DHS, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and other government, non-governmental, law enforcement, and private organizations to make Pennsylvania a safer place and bring those who exploit human lives to justice. To date, PennDOT has trained close to 600 driver license and welcome center employees, as well as almost 15,000 transit agency employees in human trafficking awareness.
This #WearBlueDay, I hope you will join me and my PennDOT colleagues as we wear blue to raise awareness for the Blue Campaign and put the brakes on trafficking before it starts. To learn more about Human Trafficking and how to recognize and report possible cases, visit our Human Trafficking page.