14:02 PM

Metrolink Strengthening Efforts to Counter Human Trafficking


LOS ANGELES – In January, Metrolink CEO Darren Kettle joined industry colleagues from across the country in signing the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Transportation Leaders Against Human Trafficking Pledge, further reinforcing the agency’s ongoing commitment to combatting human trafficking on its lines and at stations across Southern California. Under Kettle’s leadership, Metrolink is bolstering efforts in three key areas: improving training for staff, driving broader public awareness, and tracking and sharing data.

“Human trafficking is a heinous crime that affects tens of thousands of Americans and millions worldwide each year,” Kettle said. “By shining a brighter spotlight on the issue, equipping staff and riders with essential information and resources, and increasing cross-agency collaboration, we have the opportunity to change lives by disrupting how these criminals operate in the communities we serve.”

The transportation industry is uniquely positioned within the national counter-trafficking movement. Traffickers frequent transportation hubs, like bus stops and train stations, to recruit vulnerable individuals, and they often use transit systems, including public transportation, to move victims between locations. 

Metrolink conductors and engineers already receive specialized training to help them recognize and report the indicators of human trafficking. Metrolink has extended similar training to frontline employees and has adopted additional educational requirements for all staff members, including office personnel. This month, the agency is also rolling out a comprehensive awareness campaign to engage the traveling public in the effort to end human trafficking.

“Human trafficking isn’t just a global issue,” Metrolink Chief Customer Experience Officer Lisa Bahr said. “It’s happening right here in Southern California. As a regional public transportation agency, our customers are critical allies, helping us monitor our system for anything out of the ordinary. It’s important that both Metrolink representatives and the traveling public know what to look for and what action to take if they see something suspicious. Together, we can play a pivotal role in the fight against human trafficking.”

So far in 2024, Metrolink has conducted essential training for all frontline staff and the majority of Metrolink’s workforce has completed a new biannual education requirement. Metrolink has developed digital and print materials to help drive awareness across multiple touchpoints, including on trains and at stations. The agency has also implemented a new reporting protocol to improve data collection, information sharing and collaboration with national counter-trafficking agencies, like the Department of Transportation.

More information about human trafficking, common indicators and how to report is available below. Metrolink customers can also learn more at metrolinktrains.com/human-trafficking.

What is human trafficking?

According to Polaris, which operates the National Human Trafficking Hotline, U.S. law defines human trafficking as the use of force, fraud or coercion to compel a person into commercial sex acts or labor against their will. Human trafficking should not be confused with human smuggling, which is the illegal movement of a person across a border, though the two crimes can sometimes be related.

Each year in the United States, children and adults of all genders are exploited across every state and territory in urban, rural and tribal areas. Victims of human trafficking can be lured in many ways, including with false promises of a better life, employment, educational opportunities, stable and conflict-free environments, and access to basic necessities. Fear, manipulation, language barriers and reliance on their abusers for physical needs like money and shelter often keep victims from seeking help, making human trafficking a crime hidden in plain sight.

What are the signs?

Alerting authorities to the signs of human trafficking can change someone’s life. Not all indicators of human trafficking will be present in every situation. Some common signs that an individual may be the victim of human trafficking include:

  • Appearing fearful, anxious, depressed, submissive, tense, timid or nervous/paranoid
  • Avoiding eye contact or interaction with others
  • Showing signs of malnourishment, poor hygiene, fatigue, sleep deprivation, or untreated illness or injuries, including wounds, whip marks or bruises at various stages of healing
  • Appearing to be traveling with few or no personal items, such as a purse or wallet
  • Deferring to another person to speak for them, appearing to be coached on what to say or providing responses that seem rehearsed
  • Having their movement and/or social interaction restricted by a traveling companion
  • Appearing to have no control over or possession of forms of identification, money and/or other documents
  • Minors appearing to be accompanied by a non-genuine parent/guardian
  • Having a language barrier with their traveling companion
  • Not knowing what city they are in or where they have been
  • Having no logical means of reaching or lacking knowledge of their final destination
  • Having tattoos or scars that could indicate branding by a trafficker, including barcodes or references to money, particularly in the face and neck areas
  • Mentioning a modeling, acting or labor job without knowing specific details or who they are traveling to meet
  • Working excessively long hours with few or no breaks and/or indicating an employer is withholding pay
  • Offering to exchange sex for a transit ticket, meal or help

How to report

To ensure the safety of everyone involved, including the suspected victim(s), concerned individuals should never personally intervene. Instead, promptly notify Metrolink or alert law enforcement. When making a report, it is important to include as many details as possible.

  • Always call 911 in an emergency
  • Call Metrolink’s Security Operations Center directly at 866-640-5190 or inform a Metrolink representative to alert the Security Operations Center
  • Report to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or by texting BEFREE (233733)

What resources are available?

Ending human trafficking is a collaborative effort involving state and national government agencies, nonprofit organizations, advocacy groups, and private and public partners like Metrolink. Some notable educational and support resources are listed below.