BOSTON — A handful of Massachusetts lawmakers is hoping to create a new front line of defense against sex trafficking by training hotel workers to recognize signs of exploitation.
The bill, which was heard Wednesday before the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee, would require hotels to develop a “human trafficking recognition program.”
Rep. Tom Walsh, one of those sponsoring the bill, said hotel workers could play a critical role on the front lines of battling sex trafficking, which can often occur in hotels.
Walsh said he filed the bill after riding along with FBI agents and local police who were investigating sex trafficking cases in his district, according to the Eagle-Tribune.
“The human trafficking industry really runs on that Interstate 95 corridor between Florida up to the Canadian border,” the Peabody Democrat told the committee. “It’s an incredibly horrible situation.”
The proposed training must be approved by the attorney general’s office before being overseen by local police departments.
The training would focus on educating hotel workers on signs of exploitation, including multiple individuals coming and going from a single room, according to Walsh.
It legislation would also require hotels to post written notice in multiple languages urging victims of sexual exploitation to call a hotline providing access to law enforcement and supportive services.
The vast majority of victims are women, girls, and boys, said State Rep. Sally Kerans, another supporter of the bill,
“What’s also shocking to think is any of us checking into a hotel or motel could be feet away from someone trapped in prostitution,” the Danvers Democrat told the committee. “It’s not only in the small one-level motels on highways but often in the more respectable business level hotels that sex buyers conduct their exploitation.”
Four states — California, Connecticut, Minnesota, and New Jersey — require sex exploitation training for hotel workers according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association Educational Foundation, according to the Eagle-Tribune. Eleven states recommend training.
At least 13 states, including Maine and New York, also require hotels to post signs about sex trafficking hotlines and other information.
“Hotel workers can be trained to recognize red flags from the moment they sign someone in at the front desk, to when they go in to clean their rooms,” said Lisa Goldblatt Grace, co-founder and executive director of the sex trafficking survivors’ group My Life My Choice.
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