Officers with the Ohio State Highway Patrol pose with others involved in the coalition to combat human trafficking.
Officers with the Ohio State Highway Patrol pose with others involved in the coalition to combat human trafficking.

MPA student combats human trafficking, applies experience from the Voinovich School

Daniel Kington
February 17, 2016

Mike Crispen is still working on his master of public administration degree, but he is already applying his knowledge in his career as an Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) captain to develop a campaign against human trafficking.

Crispen, who earned a degree in criminal justice from Ohio University in 2014, enrolled in the executive master of public administration program at the Voinovich School with his primary research focus to evaluate how his agency runs and make it more efficient. However, a class with adjunct MPA professor Dr. Floun'say R. Caver on efficiency and cost savings unexpectedly led Crispen in a different direction.

According to Crispen, during class one day, Caver began discussing a news story about a horrendous human trafficking case in which three young women were held hostage for about 10 years. Crispen then mentioned a two-part program at the Ohio State Highway Patrol that involved both reducing traffic accidents and combatting human trafficking.

“I didn’t realize at the time that human trafficking was something dear to Dr. Caver’s heart,” Crispen said.

An officer provides a truck driver with educational materials.

After class, the two began to talk. Caver explained that he’d been involved in a project putting signage together throughout the Cleveland transit system in order to spread awareness of human trafficking and bring hope to victims. Together, Crispen and Caver devised a plan to emulate this advertising campaign across the state. Between the inception of the project and late 2015, more than 168,000 signs, wallet cards, and pamphlets had been produced and distributed. Additionally, Crispen has successfully aided the development of a coalition combatting human trafficking in Ohio, which includes a group called Truckers Against Trafficking, the Ohio Trucking Association, Greyhound bus lines, taxi services, the Ohio Department of Public Safety, the Attorney General’s office, the Governor’s Office and the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles, as well as pre-existing coalitions across the state and many truck stops.

Through this coalition and his work with Truckers Against Trafficking, Crispen helped write a curriculum for classes, which train drivers to recognize the signs of and respond to potential incidents of human trafficking.

However, the new coalition’s efforts at outreach and education have not been limited to truck drivers. They took this idea a step further by helping to ensure that every person who receives a commercial driver license (CDL) in Ohio also receives educational materials about human trafficking. In addition, new drivers attending CDL schools will recieve the one-hour training in human trafficking prevention.

Although Crispen and the Patrol have not yet received official data from the hotline advertised by the signs and promoted in the classes for commercial drivers, Crispen did identify two cases that seem to support the effectiveness of his work with Dr. Caver and the coalition. In both cases, a young girl was rescued because she was spotted by truckers who recognized the signs of human trafficking as a direct result of their experiences in the classes that were devised by the coalition. The truckers then knew to call the hotline, and both of the girls were rescued.

“We’re hoping to see a big, big turn in regard to combating human trafficking, and not just in the state of Ohio,” Crispen said. Because Ohio is a crossroads in the United States, commercial truck drivers leaving the state reach almost the entire country – and so too does the training in human trafficking prevention that they take with them.

“If I hadn’t been in that class with Dr. Caver, I’m not sure any of this would have happened,” Crispen said.

Caver also stressed the value of their collaboration. “The applied collaboration between professor and student, in efforts to better the community, is indicative of the uniqueness and value found in the Voinovich School's classroom,” Caver said. “I am proud to have been able to assist Captain Crispen in his efforts to fight this seminal issue of our time. Mike's commitment and leadership in this area is a tremendous benefit to all of Ohio.”

Crispen’s work on the human trafficking campaign has been featured in The Huffington Post, Reuters, PBS and several trucking magazines.