Over the past few years authorities have been examining sex trafficking in a new light. They are viewing this crime with increasing seriousness, looking for ways to intervene earlier in the exploitation cycle, and holding anyone who benefits from the crime liable. Doing nothing is no longer acceptable. Doing nothing will now result in a fine or a jail sentence.
Hotels are on the front lines of this battle and they deserve to be better equipped with the knowledge and tools to defend themselves. Traffickers feel that they can brazenly walk the halls and sit in the lobbies of hotels throughout America selling girls. Sometimes the girls come in with obvious indicators of abuse, exploitation and trafficking. It is not always easy to discern what is happening. It is not easy to know exactly what to do but something has to be done. Hotels should have well defined procedures and protocols in place when confronted with a suspected trafficking case. All hotel employees should be armed with the knowledge of what the indicators of a trafficking scenario look like. Identifying victims and alerting authorities can help save a victim’s life and potentially lead to the arrest of a sex trafficker.
Doing nothing is no longer an option. There are very few hotels that are knowingly involved in trafficking girls. Most are being exploited for the security and privacy they provide. But some are actively participating, facilitating, or knowingly looking the other way. The first federal case was almost three years ago. In Louisiana, a motel owner was arrested by the FBI and ICE HSI special agents. He pleaded guilty on July 1st, 2015 for profiting from a prostitution ring that took place in his motel in New Orleans. The hotel owner confessed that he would rent rooms to individuals he knew were pimps and that the girls using the rooms had been forced into prostitution. He had knowledge of beatings and women being smuggled through back doors. The defendant said that he was never involved to the extent that he was recruiting and forcing girls into the sex trade, however, he did benefit financially by charging the pimps more for a room than the average customer. He was sentenced to five years in prison.
It is not just law enforcement that is taking the fight against sex trafficking, but also the victims and their families. Victims have begun to file lawsuits against hotels. The lawsuits have recently begun to gain traction, revealing to the hotel industry that they can be held accountable for their negligence. One of the most significant lawsuits, a landmark case, involved sex trafficking against the Roosevelt Inn in Philadelphia. The victim, now a 17-year-old, is suing Roosevelt Inn for compensation, because as a 14-year-old, she was trafficked through the Inn and engaged in commercial sex acts with over 1,000 men. It is suspected that many of the hotel staff were thought to have looked the other way. Other lawsuits have now surfaced in the wake of this landmark case. The lawsuit against the Roosevelt Inn has set a precedent for other hotels throughout the United States that there will be severe consequences for those who participate in the illicit sex trade.
Like these events, other hoteliers have been prosecuted, franchises taken away, and civil suits are piling up. There is no reason for an upright industry to get caught up in this mess. Get involved, shape the discussion, set the conditions so all parties are protected.
How does the hotel industry receive the correct training and know where they can find the resources necessary to detect, prevent, and report sex trafficking? Guardian Group recommends that businesses design a plan of action and know how they are going to address trafficking indicators, what they can do to reinforce or alleviate their suspicions, and inform all staff how and when to report the crime to law enforcement.
Guardian Group also outlines what any citizen should do if they suspect the occurrence of sex trafficking. Never attempt to make contact or directly confront a suspected trafficker or alert the victim that you are suspicious. Instead, call 9-1-1 if the situation is emergent, such as threats of violence and physical assault. Guardian Group provides a significant amount of information about this crime on their non-profit’s website. Booklets and training manuals that explain sex trafficking and how to become involved are available.
Do not believe the lie that prostitution is the oldest profession or that prostitution is a woman’s choice. This is not true, society is blind to the fact that almost all these women start as young girls, are victims, and are truly suffering at the hand of their captors. The criminal justice system is coming to realize that something must be done about this fast-growing crime. Hotels are now being held accountable for the victims that are trafficked through their place of business. The actions of these businesses who participate in helping facilitate this crime will not be tolerated. Hotels and other hospitality industries can avoid these consequences by doing what’s right. Receive the training necessary to spot these victims, stay up to date on training, and apply the training to help law enforcement apprehend sex traffickers while protecting the hotel business from criminal or civil charges. Help protect our communities. Help protect our children.
Article by Jeff Tiegs and Logan Stevens
Guardian Group is here to help https://theguardiangroup.org/. The Guardian Seal Training Program is the only 100% self-paced online training program designed to help hotels and their staff recognize the signs of human trafficking within their establishments. The Guardian Seal begins by helping staff at all levels understand how this criminal enterprise intersects their workplace and why it is imperative to be able to respond appropriately when they suspect it. The training will ensure hotel staffs understand how to identify sex trafficking, so they are equipped to recognize exploiters, buyers and victims of this fast-growing crime. Learn more at- https://theguardiangroup.org/seal/