Fiesta Mart is trying to help fight human trafficking in Green Country.
The convenience store is training its employees on how to spot and help victims.
Research shows traffickers may bring their victims to convenience stores for food, fuel, cigarettes, condoms, or to simply clean up in the restroom.
“It’s an ongoing and growing problem in our communities,” said Duff Thompson from Fiesta Mart. “We serve both along highways and interstates, but we also serve the smaller communities and it’s important for us to realize that … it’s in our hometowns.”
There were 75 cases of human trafficking in Oklahoma last year alone, according to the Human Trafficking Hotline.
“A lot of times they are put into a situation that they feel they can’t get out of,” stated Thompson. “They either are shamed into it, they’ve done some things that they may regret, or they’re just simply forced into the situation, whether it be labor or sex trafficking.”
Most of the cases last year involved sex trafficking.
Research shows half of Oklahomans stop at a convenience store every day.
“The chances are the traffickers may come in, may stop. Their victims may be with them, they may get the opportunity to go into a restroom, their only time to be alone,” said Thompson. “That’s why Fiesta Mart is putting these stickers in bathroom stalls with the National Hotline Number and training employees on what to look for.”
Employees are also learning what to do and who to call if they think a victim walks through the door. It’s all through a national program that’s already helping 13,000 convenience stores, petroleum marketers, and industry suppliers in more than 40 states.
“It’s important for us to have an opportunity to give them the information that they can get out and there are pathways for that,” said Thompson.