VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - A Virginia Beach Uber driver sensed something suspicious and called police when a young female passenger got into his car, according to court documents. Records reveal that the call led to the arrest of two people accused of sex trafficking a minor.
News 3 is investigating how Uber works to identify human sex trafficking. The company explained how they just implemented a new program aimed to make drivers safer and hold criminals accountable.
News 3 also met up with Olivia Reposa, a trafficking survivor turned advocate. She said at the age of 18 she was lured into sex trafficking by a man she thought loved her.
“After a few months with me falling in love with him and caring for him, it turned into a trafficking situation,” Reposa said.
She now works for Survivor Ventures, a local nonprofit that helps human sex trafficking victims.
Reposa said she spent three years being trafficked.
"He said, 'If you love me, you will sell yourself to get us money to be able to survive,'" Reposa said. "It turned into abuse, verbal abuse and physical abuse."
Advocates say that abuse is going on throughout the community.
Law enforcement officials were called out to Linkhorn Circle in Virginia Beach in November after court documents reveal an Uber driver felt like something wasn’t right with the young female passenger in his car.
He reportedly told authorities the passenger didn’t seem to know who she was meeting, and he felt odd about the whole situation.
This led to the arrest of Omel Mclean and a woman from New York City. The girl had traveled with the woman from NYC to Virginia.
The adults are both facing several charges, including sex trafficking.
News 3 reached out to Uber about the situation. A company spokesperson said Uber couldn’t comment on the specifics on any investigation, but did say Uber is thankful for and proud of the driver who thought to intervene.
An Uber representative also explained how the company works with national human sex trafficking advocates to provide their drivers with information about what to look out for. They said they give drivers information in January and July, along with a video educating them on human trafficking.
They said they also make the information available on their website all the time.
“They're interacting with potentially vulnerable members of our community, and so that's why it's really critical to get them education on what to look out for and how trafficking operates and what to do when and if they see something wrong,” said Brittany Anthony, an Uber representative and the Director of Global Woman’s Safety Policy.
She said Uber just implemented a new program that requires someone to show identification if they want to make an anonymous payment, like when using a prepaid credit card or gift card.
She said the purpose is to make driver safer, but it will also hold criminals responsible if police need their information.
“By having that identity piece, it is really key because if they commit wrongdoing, on the app we know who they are,” said Anthony.
Advocates like Reposa want more people to take action and report suspicious situation to police or the National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1 (888) 373-7888.
“Just like that Uber driver helped that girl, you don’t know what you could do for somebody else," Reposa said.
To learn more, visit Survivor Ventures or the National Human Trafficking Hotline.