Harriet Tubman Award Winners

2016 -- Debo Adepiti and Alan Bailey, TA Travel Plaza employees

Tom Liutkus (center), senior vice president of marketing and public relations for TravelCenters of America, presented the Harriet Tubman award to Debo Adepiti (left), TA general manager at Jessup, and Alan Bailey (right), porter.

Tom Liutkus (center), senior vice president of marketing and public relations for TravelCenters of America, presented the Harriet Tubman award to Debo Adepiti (left), TA general manager at Jessup, and Alan Bailey (right), porter.

Debo Adepiti and Alan Bailey, two TA Travel Plaza employees in Jessup, Maryland, have been awarded the Truckers Against Trafficking Harriet Tubman Award for their actions last year which resulted in the arrest of traffickers and the recovery of victims.

The award, which carries with it a $2500 check, is named in honor of famed abolitionist Harriet Tubman, whose courageous personal actions resulted in the transportation of 300 slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad and whose overall role in the freedom movement was instrumental in the freeing of thousands more. Born into slavery in 1820, Miss Tubman was the first African American woman buried with full military honors and the first to have the inaugural Liberty ship named after her – the SS Harriet Tubman – by the US Maritime Commission.

“Because of Harriet Tubman’s connection to transportation through the Underground Railroad and her heroic work to free thousands of slaves, TAT believes she epitomizes the symbol of freedom a trucking anti-trafficking award represents,” said Kendis Paris, TAT executive director.

Adepiti and Porter were presented the award and check on Sept. 20 at the Jessup travel plaza. “The training and procedures behind Truckers Against Trafficking are based on a very simple instruction: if you see or suspect something, call,” said Tom Liutkus, senior vice president of marketing and public relations for TravelCenters of America. “Alan and Debo did just that. Their actions led to the arrest of a three-person trafficking ring that was canvassing the entire Baltimore area and that law enforcement was already pursuing. Most importantly, newspaper accounts of the story indicate as many as 12 women had been trafficked across that area. Alan and Debo’s call has forever resulted in changing the lives of those victims for the better. By strict definition of the word, their action was not ‘heroic,’ but the results were. We at TA/Petro are very proud of them.”

Field manager Adepiti at the TA Travel Plaza was making a premise check, including the fuel desk, mechanics shop and hotel, when Alan Bailey, the night porter, told him a young lady had recently come in dressed provocatively; the porter suspected prostitution. After speaking with both the driver of the van that brought the girl, as well as the young lady when she left the hotel, Adepiti believed the girl was being trafficked. He contacted Howard County police. When detectives arrived, they recognized a woman from one of the "X-Factor" ads they'd been investigating for two months on Backpage.com. As a result of Adepiti's call, they arrested two men and a woman on human trafficking charges. The trio were advertising as many as 12 women from various states, posting ads, renting hotel rooms, scheduling appointments for prostitution and taking money from the women after they were forced to perform sex acts. Detectives also learned all three individuals provided drugs to keep the women high, making them work without sleep, assaulting them and forcing them to perform sex acts with them under threat. Police were able to locate and recover six of the women being abused by the ring of traffickers.

Press coverage on this incident:

 Human trafficking uncovered by truck stop call

 

2015 -- Kevin Kimmel, Con-Way Truckload driver

Con-way Truckload driver Kevin Kimmel from Tavares, Florida has been named the 2015 Harriet Tubman Award winner by Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) for his actions which saved a woman from torture and modern-day slavery.

The award, which carries with it a $2500 check, is named in honor of famed abolitionist Harriet Tubman, whose courageous personal actions resulted in the transportation of 300 slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad and whose overall role in the freedom movement was instrumental in the freeing of thousands more. Born into slavery in 1820, Miss Tubman was the first African American woman buried with full military honors and the first to have the inaugural Liberty ship named after her – the SS Harriet Tubman – by the US Maritime Commission.

“Because of Harriet Tubman’s connection to transportation through the Underground Railroad and her heroic work to free thousands of slaves, TAT believes she epitomizes the symbol of freedom a trucking anti-trafficking award represents,” said Kendis Paris, TAT executive director.  “And we’re proud to say that Con-Way Truckload partners with TAT in the training of their employees with TAT materials. To date, they’ve trained over 1500 of their employees. Driver Kevin Kimmel’s actions in reporting the suspicious activity he saw while resting at a truck stop is exactly the type of action we want to recognize with the Harriet Tubman award. This award was created to honor a member of the trucking industry each year whose direct actions help save or improve the lives of those enslaved or prevent human trafficking from taking place.”

On the morning of Jan. 6, 2015, Kimmel caught a glimpse of a distraught-looking young girl in the darkened window of an RV which had pulled into the New Kent, Virginia truck stop where Kimmel had stopped for some sleep.

Suddenly, her face was gone, almost as if it had been yanked away by someone.

Kimmel reported later to media that he "saw a guy come up and knock on the door, then go inside the truck stop, then quickly came back and knocked again, all of the sudden the thing was rocking and rolling."

He decided things didn’t look right and called the police. When police responded, they found an Iowa couple in the RV, along with a 20-year-old malnourished and frightened young woman, who said the couple had kidnapped her two weeks earlier in Iowa, had physically and sexually abused her and then forced her into prostitution. The couple was arrested and charged with sex trafficking.

Kimmel, who has daughters and granddaughters, learned the gruesome details of the case through the news. "I'm just happy I helped her," he said.

Kimmel received the Harriet Tubman Award and the check from Mark Brown, TAT Board president, and Kylla Lanier, TAT deputy director, at a special ceremony at Con-Way Truckload’s headquarters in Joplin, Missouri on the morning of April 3. At that same ceremony, he was awarded the Truckload Carrier Association’s Highway Angel Award, http://www.truckload.org/Highway-Angel.  

Press coverage on this event:

Brad's Beat: Highway Angel (KSN 16)

Tavares trucker recognized for actions (Daily Commercial)

Kevin Kimmel honored by Truckers Against Trafficking (KOAM 7)

Con-Way driver receives Harriet Tubman Award (LandLine Magazine)

 

2013 -- Tracy Mullins, general manager of the Petro Stopping Center® in Spokane, Washington

Tracy is a Spokane resident and a 14-year veteran of the transportation industry. She credits the TAT training required of all employees/managers of TravelCenters of America LLC or TA, with playing a pivotal role in her awareness of “something that could be wrong."

In relating the incident which earned her the award, Tracy recounted that she was walking into a restaurant near her travel plaza to talk to the manager. She noticed two young girls sitting with an older man. “Not that the situation was odd,” she said, “but the man looked as if something could be wrong. I positioned myself close enough to the table to hear the young girls ask for a ride to Seattle. At this point, the images of all the young girls from the training video were going through my mind. I approached the table and asked the girls if everything was okay. One of the girls told me the man was her uncle. The man seemed very uncomfortable and removed himself from the situation. The young girls then asked other drivers for a ride.”

Tracy realized there was a problem and notified law enforcement. The girls turned out to be runaways from a neighboring state with only $5 between them.

She stated, “This is a very special award for me, because, as a mother, I know we helped two young girls not become a statistic that day.”

“Human trafficking is a worldwide issue. We and TAT recognize that, in the United States, much of this activity relies upon the U.S. highway system for trafficking transport, and that because of our prime locations principally along the Interstate Highway System, our professional driver customers and our employees just might be in the right place at the right time to help a victim. We provide employees and drivers with information about what to look for through our company-wide training and awareness programs. We are honored by the news that Tracy received this award. We are proud of her and of the fact that she took the TAT training to heart and used it," commented Tom O’Brien, president and CEO of TA.