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PTC's Women's Network Raising Awareness for Human Trafficking

Home News Stories from the Turnpike PTC's Women's Network Raising Awareness for Human Trafficking

At the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC), we’re proud to unite people and places, providing safe, efficient transport of goods, services, and travelers across more than 550 miles.

Since 2022, we’ve supported another, life-saving connection: ensuring human trafficking victims who find themselves along our roadway can find and access help. 

Human trafficking is a crime. This form of modern-day slavery, according to the United Nations, involves the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of people through force, fraud, or deception with the aim of exploiting them for profit. Men, women, and children of all ages, from all backgrounds can become victims. It can be sexual, employment-based or both. A $150 billion enterprise, it occurs in every region of the world, including Pennsylvania.

The PTC, through its Women’s Network, is driving a statewide educational effort to raise public understanding that human trafficking can – and does – happen here. Our outreach goes beyond January – Human Trafficking Awareness Month – because the opportunity to save lives requires year-round vigilance.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike’s role in interstate transportation means we not only have a responsibility to act, but the ability to make a significant impact through education.

All PTC employees, including leaders, maintenance, and Turnpike Operations Center (TOC) staff have been trained to recognize and appropriately respond to human trafficking by the Pennsylvania State Police and members of our Human Trafficking Awareness Campaign.  Quarterly training from organizations directly involved with victim rescue – including the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Alliance Against Trafficking in Humans, Route 15 (PAATH 15) and Truckers Against Trafficking – is available to our more than 1,300 employees statewide. 

“We refuse to allow our road to be used for this reprehensible activity,” said PTC CEO Mark Compton. “With the PTC Women’s Network taking the lead, we are doing our part to ensure the promise of safe travel on the Pennsylvania Turnpike extends to those seeking to escape abuse.” 

This educational outreach also encompasses drivers and the public. If you’ve traveled the Turnpike recently, you may have noticed a series of 84 road signs in emergency pull-off areas and service plaza entrances that urge motorists to “call *11 to report human trafficking.”

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The hotline, staffed around the clock by our duty officers, can help in a variety of emergencies, including immediately relaying suspected trafficking reports to state police.

The signs, installed in the spring of 2022, immediately drew motorists’ attention, and provided opportunities to dispel common misconceptions. Many believe trafficking only occurs in impoverished nations to uneducated people or involves stranger abduction.

According to PAATH 15, 85 percent of trafficking survivors are U.S. citizens. Twenty-five percent are under 18.

What does human trafficking really look like? It can be:

  • An adult masquerading on social media as a teen, reaching out with compliments to insecure or lonely children who believe they are making a new, online friend.
  • An individual offering shelter, food, or comfort to LGBTQIA+ youth kicked out of the home due to gender expression or attraction, or a young person who aged out of foster care with no support.
  • A mentally ill or disabled person conned into working for little or no pay by a “friend.”
  • An older person ingratiating themselves into the life of a child or young adult with compounding traumas (abuse, addiction, familial or financial instability) offering “a better life.”

Drawing on the Department of Homeland Security’s anti-trafficking effort, Project Blue, each PTC service plaza has rack cards in English and Spanish offering resources and tips, including the universal hand signal trafficking victims can use to signal for help. In service plaza bathrooms, stickers on each mirror provide information that can make reporting suspected trafficking easier.

Additionally, members of the Women’s Network, along with our governmental and social service partners, have conducted awareness training for schools, other toll roads, industry groups and government agencies.

Through sustained effort, the PTC believes we can be a driving force for change, with awareness training that empowers other roadways to become safety corridors.

Daunting as it is, prevention is possible. Become familiar with the signs of human trafficking and the hand signal for help. Report suspected trafficking and abuse by dialing 911, *11 on the Pennsylvania Turnpike or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888. Authorities can take it from there.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is committed to raising awareness and providing information that helps survivors find a way home. By acting together, advocating for laws that punish abusers and protect victims and speaking up, we can offer unconditional help – and unconditional hope – to those still in trafficking’s grasp. 


By Renee Colborn, PA Turnpike Commission, Operations Communications Officer