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California C-Stores Fight Human Trafficking

NACS and convenience stores nationwide are doing their part to help support efforts that will bring an end to this heinous crime.
January 11, 2018

SACRAMENTO – The California Independent Oil Marketers Association (CIOMA) announced its partnership with In our Backyard (IOB) through the group’s flagship program, Convenience Stores Against Trafficking (CSAT). By promoting January as National Trafficking Awareness Month, CIOMA enters this new partnership to help empower California's convenience industry as a leader in combatting human trafficking across the state.

With over 11,000 storefronts along California's roads and highways, convenience stores are in a unique position to stop trafficking on the front lines. CSAT will bring the latest resources and in-depth employee training in identifying and reporting trafficking to CIOMA's extensive network of retail operators. By providing real-world training and in-store resources for victims, CIOMA and CSAT hope to provide victims pathways and opportunities to freedom from their captors that would not otherwise exist.

“Awareness is the critical first step in ending trafficking, and now CIOMA joins our goal of engaging the entire convenience store industry to promote safety and support for their communities by becoming members of CSAT,” said Nita Belles, founder of In Our Backyard.

"With January being recognized as Human Trafficking Awareness Month, CIOMA is proud of this partnership and the commitment to eradicate trafficking from our communities for good," said Ryan Hanretty, executive director of CIOMA. "These small, family- and minority-owned businesses are engrained in their communities and truly care about their neighbors. Our members are ready to lead the fight against the heinous crime of human trafficking."

In Our Backyard, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, links convenience stores and other rest stops across America in the fight against human trafficking through awareness, action, education, legislative advising and advocacy for survivors. Its Convenience Stores Against Trafficking program raises public awareness of the issue in communities across America. CSAT engages convenience stores as trafficking prevention centers in local communities by training employees to recognize and report human trafficking.

To help combat human trafficking, NACS announced a partnership in July 2017 with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Blue Campaign, providing convenience retailers with access to NACS-branded DHS Blue Campaign training and awareness materials for download—including posters, handouts and other materials—free of charge.

As valuable partners within their own community, convenience stores can help play a role in combating human trafficking.

“Convenience stores serve 160 million customers a day in every community across the country 24 hours a day. Our industry is well equipped to share important messages with our customers so they can collectively create the equivalent of a neighborhood watch program in their communities,” said NACS Vice President of Strategic Industry Initiatives Jeff Lenard.

To learn more about your stores can get involved in combating human trafficking, contact Carolyn Schnare, NACS director of strategic initiatives, at (703) 518-4248 or cschnare@convenience.org