Trafficking training saves lives

'We all have value, no matter what'

Jess Oaks
Posted 5/22/24

TORRINGTON – According to the Wyoming Crime Statistics, there have been 13 violent crimes reported by the Torrington Police Department since January 1, 2024. Violent crimes are defined by the …

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Trafficking training saves lives

'We all have value, no matter what'


TORRINGTON – According to the Wyoming Crime Statistics, there have been 13 violent crimes reported by the Torrington Police Department since January 1, 2024. Violent crimes are defined by the report as murder, nonconsensual sex offenses, robbery, and aggravated assault. 

Overall, statistically, Torrington and Goshen County are relatively safe places to live and raise a family. Our rural comminutes encompass the small quiet town of Torrington and many people travel our highways and county roads which stretch into the adjacent states. 

Ed Kimes, the long-time truck driver turned commercial driver’s license (CDL) instructor at Eastern Wyoming College (EWC) expressed although Goshen County appears to be a quite wide-open space, it’s important to remain vigilant to the fact human trafficking could very well be taking place under our noses. 

Human trafficking is a global crime where people are bought and sold for forced labor or commercial sex and according to Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT), traffickers use violence, manipulation, and false promises of work opportunities or romance to lure, control, and exploit their victims. 

Kimes teaches his CDL students how to handle situations where human trafficking is suspected, which includes signs to recognize the situation.

“We show the students a couple of videos and then TAT asked us to have them each do the online training and then take the test so they can keep a better record of how many people are actually trained,” Kimes said. “We have them sit through and watch the online training video and take the test. Then they get the certificate.” 

Kimes explained the TAT training isn’t mandatory for his CDL students, but he teaches it anyway.

“It is not mandated, but we have been asked to teach it and we include it in our program,” Kimes said. “We even did it with our high school CDL students.” 

“If you go to their website and do the training, there is a button at the top that has their trainings,” Kimes said. “The one we do is for commercial drives. There’s truck stops, local drivers, school buses, and over-the-road drivers. We do that one for our commercial drivers. We are going to train in Wheatland this summer, I think, and I will have those drivers watch the school bus version.”

One of the training videos provided by TAT features “Nikki’s Story,” which is a six-minute interview with a human trafficking survivor, Nikki. Nikki explains how she became involved in trafficking and how she was able to escape her captor and flee to a nearby truck stop where she sat in fear for three days until an employee realized Nikki was in danger thanks to the TAT training.

“The thought is, this is the lifestyle they are choosing but the reality is oftentimes there’s a back story. The majority of individuals engaged in prostitution, or the commercial sex industry are not there on their own and this is something being forced on them,” Esther Goetsch, executive director of TAT said during the training video. “Trafficking is happening all across our country, but truckers are also everywhere. They are in places law enforcement is not and are uniquely positioned to see potential victims and to be a point of safety for victims and recovery for victims of human trafficking.”

“When individuals are trained on the signs of human trafficking and what the reality of this crime is, they can actually be a change maker,” Goetsch said. “They can be a hero in the course of their everyday job.”

The TAT training lists the following red flags for suspected human trafficking victims: lack of knowledge of their whereabouts; not in control of ID/passport, restricted or controlled communication; not allowed to speak for self; being watched or followed, any mention of making a quota or having a pimp/daddy, signs of branding or tattooing of trafficker’s name (often on the neck), a van, RV or vehicle with multiple women in a mainly male area and/ or dropping women off and picking them up 15-20 minutes later and/or signs of bruising.

“He gave me a lot of respect,” Nikki said of the truck stop employee who recognized the signs of human trafficking. “He was soft-spoken. That’s what it was. It was his compassion and not being judgmental, just that little bit.” 

“Please do not approach traffickers. Allow law enforcement to deal with traffickers and recover victims. Approaching traffickers is not only dangerous for you and their victims but could lead to problems in the eventual prosecution of traffickers,” TAT said.  

Truckers are the eyes and ears of our roadways, according to TAT, however training for public service employees is also beneficial. 

“Truckstop employees who see a potential victim and make a call on their behalf, they may not see the outcome. They may not know what happens to that individual, but their actions can truly make a difference in the life of someone else,” Goetsch said.

Kimes explained on the second day of the TAT training, the students watch Nikki’s story.

“Some of them it is really hard for them to watch it,” Kimes said. “I had a guy, he’s a big, tattooed guy, he got all done and he asked if he could have a moment. He went outside and came back in and said, ‘I’m not going to lie to you, I cried outside.’”

Kimes also shows the video interview of two young girls from Ohio who were rescued from a human trafficking operation. 

“Those two girls 13 and 14 and they were in Toledo, Ohio, and whoever picked them up convinced them that they knew those girls’ families,” Kimes said. “They were supposed to pick them up and take them back. So, they had watched them and studied them enough to tell.” 

“The training is accessible / it’s free so companies can’t say it’s a cost issue for why they don’t train. I am actually also a trafficking survivor, so I definitely have an interest in making people aware,” Liz Williamson, training specialist and survivor leader for TAT said. “My story is actually shared on the school bus video.”

“TAT is incredible,” Kimes said. “Every person that comes through gets trained on it. We can offer it to other companies. We haven’t had a lot of interest in it.”

Goshen County sits near the 1-25 corridor. 

“I-25 is a main trafficking corridor,” Kimes explained. “It runs from Mexico all the way to Canada, so it is a main trafficking corridor. I-80 is a busy corridor, and we live on (US Highway) 26 and people think 26 isn’t a busy road. Well, it is because you go Oglala (Nebraska) up to Wheatland and then that way. So instead of going to Cheyenne, trucks go through here and if the wind is shut down here, every one of them comes through 26. People think, well it’s Torrington. It’s Lusk, we don’t really have that here, but you don’t know if you have that here,” Kimes explained. 

Goshen County is on the route to many tourist stops in the west. 

“We are on the route to South Dakota. You don’t get to South Dakota without going through here,” Kimes said. 

“The reality is that trafficking happens in communities so making more people aware is key to prevention,” Williamson said. “If you look on our website we have all sorts of programs - we work with the trucking, bus, energy, school bus, and other industries. All of our videos are about a half hour and can either be taken internally through a company training platform or our website has the same training platform if a company wants to use that instead,” Williamson added. 

“I read one time because Colorado is a real high area for it, I read that a good portion of that is husbands trafficking a wife,” Kimes said. “You might see the couple and think the couple is just a regular couple. What do you look for? You look for, well everybody knows to look for the signs of domestic abuse, but this is a way quieter thing.”

“They know how to pick their victims,” Donna White community education director at EWC said.  “They know the signs of someone who is venerable.” 

Kimes is excited to teach the TAT training to his students because after all, the world is a very large space. 

“You train a high school student or any driver here and then you don’t know where they are going to go,” Kimes said. “There’s a push nationwide in the trucking industry to really do this.”

“We all have value, no matter what,” Nikki said at the end of her interview. “Think of your mom, or your sister, or your daughter going through something like that.”

For more information on TAT or to report a non-emergent tip, please visit the TAT website at: or the tip line at 1-888-373-7888.