ST. PETERSBURG — Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is training its drivers to recognize when passengers may be victims of human trafficking.

PSTA bus operators are being trained on what to do when faced with an emergency.

In partnership with the Department of Transportation, Truckers Against Human Trafficking and the Department of Homeland Security, the PSTA program, “The Eyes of the City,” consists of training sessions like looking for signs of a person being disoriented or confused, or showing signs of mental or physical abuse.

Safety is a number one priority for PSTA, not only for our drivers but also our riders.

“We may not be able to change the world, but we will be able to help our world. When we see something, we say something,” said Adriana Rodriguez, RISK Coordinator for PSTA and Eyes of The City creator.

Currently, Florida ranks third in the United States in human trafficking cases reported by states, behind only California and Texas. According to the Polaris Project, many abusers use public transportation to move nearly half of human trafficking victims. There are between 100,000 – 300,000 sex trafficking victims under the age of 18 in the U.S. per year.

The Eyes of the City was created in May of 2019 and as of the first of January, 78 PSTA staff members have been trained through this program. Bus operators meet two to three times per month to receive an updated overview of information.