When 34-year-old Keith Avila first started working as an Uber driver, he thought he knew the “hazards” of the job.
“The worst thing I thought would happen when driving Uber is that I would be getting drunk passengers and I would have to handle them,” Avila said according to NBC News. “All my life, I thought about people throwing up in the car as the worst scenario.”
Little did he realize, however, that one fateful night in December would see him stepping in to dismantle a child sex-trafficking ring.
Avila picked up three women on their way to a hotel — however, he knew something was off.
On the night of December 26th, 2016, Avila was only a month into his job as a driver for Uber in the Sacramento area of California.
The shift was uneventful until one particularly strange call; he was to pick up three young women and drive them to the Holiday Inn in the city of Elk Grove. This did not seem to be an unusual request to Avila, until his passengers entered the car.
His passengers were three young women. The two older women sat in the back, and a younger girl sat next to him in the front. Oddly, the youngest girl, only 16-years-old but seemingly appearing much younger than that, had an unusually short skirt.
“It struck me as odd,” Avila said according to NBC News. “Because she was so young, and she was dressing like that.”
The women ignored Avila and openly talked about sending the girl to a man, who would give her money.
What was even more odd, though, was that as Avila drove towards the destination, a woman began to coach the girl and give her strange instructions.
“When you’re hugging him, just ask, ‘Do you have any weapons?’ Pat him down,” Avila said the woman told the girl, according to NBC News.
He knew his fears were confirmed. The women were transporting this young girl for the purposes of trafficking her for sex. What was strange was that the women acted completely oblivious to his presence.
“They just started talking right in front of me,” Avila said in a video posted to Facebook.
Avila knew he had to do something — he soon came up with a plan to dismantle the operation for good.
That turned out to be a blessing for Avila and the victim, because he had heard everything—what they were doing, as well as the room number where the young victim was to meet her “customer.”
Avila, a first-generation Mexican immigrant, then came up with a plan. He dropped the women off at the hotel and pretended to drive away. Four minutes later, he called the police and relayed the story to them.
The police arrived very quickly, rescued the young girl, arrested her ‘customer,’ and took the two other women she was with into custody.
Avila is a hero, but his one heroic act does not mean others can ignore the issue.
According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, in 2017 there were over 4,000 reported cases of human trafficking in the United States. Of those, over 3,000 were related to sexual trafficking.
Avila’s example shows us that the only way to fight this horrific and tragic crime is if we all keep our eyes open and stay ever-vigilant.