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Cherriots signs on to human trafficking awareness pledge

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United Way donation will fund additional training

It all started with a simple “get-to-know-you” conversation at the Del Webb Operations Headquarters. Two Cherriots staff members got to talking interests and passions, and discovered in each other a kindred spirit. Both had previous experiences with organizations that rescued victims of human trafficking, and both had felt a desire to bring awareness of this issue to Cherriots.

They knew that Cherriots is the eyes and ears of our community and that we could make a significant difference in disrupting human trafficking here. They knew our operators are heroes in so many situations, and this was one more area where they had the opportunity to change lives.

We connected with Safety Compass, a Silverton-based non-profit that, “exists to extend relentless hope and navigational support for survivors of commercial sexual exploitation.” Safety Compass offers training to help police officers, transit staff, and others identify the signs of possible exploitation and create policies to address these situations. A Safety Compass trainer came to Cherriots earlier this year to begin training with supervisors and managers at Cherriots. Our bus drivers also watched a video training for in-service training. Both trainings went well, so we began to think about how to expand these opportunities.

At the wedding shower for a mutual friend’s daughter, one of the Cherriots staff members mentioned earlier ran into Stephanie Bobb, our liaison at the United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley. After hearing about the work we were already doing, Stephanie offered to connect us to assistance from the Women United Fund at the United Way.

This led to a presentation of a check for additional funding from the United Way in March. This funding will allow Cherriots to hold more trainings for staff to build awareness of human trafficking and create a process for reporting these situations. Safety Compass has developed a discrete method for Cherriots staff members to give helpful information to possible victims when they identify signs of potential human trafficking. We’re also developing a process where transit operators do not directly intervene but may be able to call into dispatch with a particular code to alert authorities.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has also developed a pledge for transit agencies who have taken steps to address human trafficking. General Manager Allan Pollock has signed this pledge on behalf of Cherriots, strengthening our commitment to awareness and disruption of the victimization of vulnerable individuals.

We’ve planned more trainings in the near future for customer service staff, operations supervisors, security officers, and others. Safety Compass has detailed information about the parts of Salem where human trafficking activity is higher, as well as additional training on what signs to look for. The leadership and staff have embraced this effort, and our hope is that we can continue to make a positive difference in our community by addressing this important issue.     

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