Trucker honored for thwarting child-trafficking attempt

Updated Sep 11, 2023

Updated, September 8, 2023: New Mexico Department of Public Safety Public Information Officer Ray Wilson reported details about the supposed instance of human trafficking described in the original version of this Highway Angel story from the Truckload Carriers Association (below). While Wilson commended the operator for calling in the tip, he noted the outcome of this roadside stop was not any kind of arrest of human smugglers. Rather, the few children seen in the back of the pickup were daughters of the pickup's driver. The children had been en route from Mexico back to their home in Phoenix, Arizona. "Turns out it was a mom and, I believe, it was her brother and four children," just three of whom "were in the back of the truck," Officer Wilson said. All had passports and checked out. The driver, the mother, "was given seatbelt citations for the kids that weren’t buckled up," Wilson added, and "they were moved back into the cab." 

Nonetheless, from a simple safety standpoint, Wilson emphasized "It’s a good thing that [the truck driver] called it in. You see something like that," three kids sleeping in a pickup bed at highway speeds, "you definitely want to call law enforcement." 

Original story follows:

The Truckload Carriers Association has named truck driver Michael (his full name and hometown have been excluded to protect his identity) a TCA Highway Angel for discovering, pursuing, and turning in human traffickers with multiple children caged in the back of a pickup truck.

Highway Angel MichaelTruck driver Michael, whose last name, hometown and fleet are unnamed to protect his identity, helped thwart a child trafficking attempt by reporting caged children to police.On June 18 around 1 a.m. in a border state, Michael was at a dark rest stop just off I-10. A white pickup truck with a tarp and cage pulled up in front of him, and a woman got out of the truck and went around to the back of it.

“She raises the tarp, and there’s a padlock on this cage,” Michael said. “She takes the padlock off and opens it and out comes these three or four little girls. They didn’t pull all the kids out -- they put the lock back on, and they forced the kids into the restroom.”

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Michael said the little girls that he saw were no older than three or four years old. When the two adults and little girls came back out of the bathroom, the driver of the pickup forced the kids back into the cage, locked it, and covered the cage in a tarp.

He called the police and was able to walk around in the dark to read the truck’s license plate. Somehow the two adults in the pickup truck must have noticed him, because they took off quickly in the truck. Michael followed them.

“They got about two or three miles ahead of me, but I was on the phone with the dispatcher,” he said. “Next thing you know, the police pulled them over -- cops came out of everywhere.”

Michael also pulled over and waited until the police were ready to speak with him to get his statement. Police told Michael that “this kind of thing happens all the time.” Several of the children had been reported missing, and there were even more children in the cage, police told him. 

“In the cage, there were hammocks with kids draped across the top,” Michael said, “and the entire bottom of the cage was filled with children.”

Police also told him for his own protection he should leave the scene, in case anyone affiliated with the human traffickers was watching. The father of two young children, including a little girl, Michael was emotionally distraught after the nightmarish discovery.

“It’s really scary,” he said.

[Related: Inside an uptick in human smuggling via tractor-trailer: Avoid unwitting participation, keep attention high]: 

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