Austin beer distributors learn how to help fight human trafficking

Austin beer vendors are learning how to help fight human trafficking

Thanks to a nationwide initiative that has now been nationalized, beer traders are being trained to spot signs of human trafficking.

Beer vendors are out and about for hours, delivering beer to bars and grocery stores, and parking at truck stops to fill their gas tanks or use the toilet.

Your eyes and ears are in the right places to see something that is wrong. In particular, much of their time is spent in places where sex trafficking or forced labor may take place.

However, to help they need to know what to look for, and thanks to a nationwide initiative that has now been nationalized, these drivers are being trained on how to do it.

DOWNLOAD THE FOX 7 AUSTIN NEWS APP

“I received a call from the executive director of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commssion in early 2018,” said Tom Spilman, president of Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas. “They had an interest in widening their eyes and ears when it came to combating human trafficking.”

Spilman was a good start. The Texas beer wholesalers oversee around 25 companies and thousands of employees.

REGISTER FOR FOX 7 AUSTIN EMAIL ALARMS

They next reached out to Brown Distributing, one of the first companies to complete the training. “It made perfect sense to see how we can help,” said Laurie Brown, vice president of the family business in Austin. “We will be visiting over 4,000 different locations in and around Austin on a regular basis.”

APD, Austin nonprofits promoting local human trafficking awareness

The aim is to raise awareness of a problem that can calmly arise in communities across the country, including Austin.

The drivers didn’t have to change their normal routine. You just learned how to recognize the signs.

“We had a training session with what they were looking for,” said Brown. “It doesn’t have to be safe, it can just be something that doesn’t look or feel right.”

RELATED: APD, Austin Nonprofit Partner, To Help Raise Awareness About Local Human Trafficking

The training included that all 420 employees watch a short video. They also distributed cards and posted posters with important information such as possible signs of human trafficking and a phone number to report suspicious items.

The initiative has since gone nationwide. The National Beer Wholesalers Association launched the “Distributors Against Human Trafficking” initiative last summer.

RELATED: How Human Traffickers Recruit Victims in the Digital Age

In 2019, the year after the initiative first started in Texas, complaints to the TABC increased 175%.

FOX 7 Discussion: Senator Campbell & Texas Small Business Protection Act

Senator Donna Campbell speaks to Mike Warren about the small business protection bill she recently tabled.

“We heard some staff say, ‘I noticed some things, I don’t know if that was it, but it was strange or different so I called them,” Brown said. “I think they felt really good that they could be part of something like this and help.”

1,080 human trafficking cases were reported in Texas in 2019, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

RELATED: Study: Sex Trafficking in the Austin Area Has Increased During the Pandemic

“We will continue to redouble our efforts,” said Spilman. “It’s such an important topic and we’re just happy to be a part of it.”

To report anything to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, call 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733 (BEFREE).

Comments are closed.