Thank you to everyone who attended the Inhospitable to Human Trafficking on Wednesday, Sept. 25 at the Red Lion of Tacoma!

The training was attended by hoteliers and law enforcement partners from throughout Pierce County to learn how to work together to help prevent sex trafficking in our hotels. The training was a stark reminder of what our hospitality industry can do to help our community, or what harm inactivity can have. The thinking and data has provided a shift in thought regarding sex trafficking, while it used to be thought that the crime was a victim-less crime, that is no longer the thinking. The research and data show that an average age of entry into prostitution is 13-15 years old. Young girls and boys that are being put into this part of our society are being manipulated and coerced into sex trafficking. Because of this discovery of data and change of thought, the concentration goes to helping those being prostituted find help through services available, while the law enforcement has begun concentrating on those trafficking them and those paying for the services.

The premise is simple, if we can work together, the hospitality industry and law enforcement, we can have a positive impact on our community and in the long term, improve the reputation of our destination. Simple processes, organizational communication and training your staff on our responsibilities as community members or as hoteliers and hospitality professionals is key to having a positive impact through our industry on our community.

While it is impossible for me to recreate the training in blog form, because there were many wonderful experts, industry professionals and service providers providing to the conversation, I can give some key take-aways for you and your company on how you can stay cognizant of your responsibilities in our efforts to rid our community of these activities.

The first major key and simple point, is we need to train our staff to recognize potential signs of prostitution and encourage them to share the information with management so management can put the pieces together to determine if a potential crime is being committed. This comes down to training your staff to recognize the warning signs of prostitution and training them to communicate with management when they recognize something.

Next, a knowledge of the laws that are in effect are important to helping prevent the crime, as well as keeping your staff and management legally safe. Here are a few of the state statutes that we'd like to highlight for you, please note, this is by far a comprehensive list and any questions pertaining to these or any other laws should be directed at your company's legal team or management.

  • RCW 9.68A.103 Permitting Commercial Sexual Abuse of a Minor requires an owner or manager to make a reasonable effort to notify law enforcement if s/he knows that the premises are being used for the commercial sexual exploitation of a minor [i.e. prostitution, making of pornography, etc].

  • RCW 9A.40.100 Trafficking prohibits persons from benefiting financially when knowing that force, fraud, or coercion will be used to cause the person to engage in prostitution. If a hotelier sees evidence of pimping or control, that case may be one of trafficking and could pose a safety risk to guests or staff. It is a best practice to contact law enforcement if there is evidence of control or pimping.

  • RCW 4.24.510 provides immunity for a hotel employee when providing information to law enforcement that is of concern to the agency, including information about (a) a suspected crime taking place, (b) health or safety threats, and (c) emergencies.

Finally, a relationship with the law enforcement is paramount to ensuring responsible business practices to help encourage a safe community. It is encouraged that you find out who your Community Liaison Officer or community outreach officer is at your local police department. Invite them in to your property to get their opinion on potential hazardous locations on your property as well as encouraging them to fill out paperwork in your parking lot to discourage criminals from coming to your business.