Sex traffic researchers to train hotel staff on warning signs - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Sex traffic researchers to train hotel staff on warning signs


We know that sex trafficking is no longer just a theme for blockbuster movies. It's sadly become a booming industry, and it's happening right here in the Valley. That's why a group of researchers, law enforcement agencies and social workers are teaming up to educate a surprising population: hotel staff.

Experts tell us it doesn't matter if it's a 2-star motel or a 5-star resort; sex trafficking is happening inside Valley hotels and there are some warning signs to identify victims.

"I had a young woman who had been trafficked by her boyfriend's parents, her prostitution fed their drug addiction," said Kristi Hickle, a researcher at ASU's School of Social Work. She has a dozen stories like that since Phoenix has become the third-largest hub in the nation for sex trafficking accessibility. We can thank our accessibility and tourism bringing in fly-by-night clientele.

"We have some transportation corridors that link it to other states," Hickle said. She and her team at ASU worked with Phoenix police and the O'Connor House to come up with a list of warning signs hotel personnel should be on the lookout for. Signs include a single older male with multiple females renting a room in cash, several phone calls from "Johns" at the front desk, garbage cans full of contraceptives and drugs and pornography in the room.

"If you start to look at these together as a whole package of warning signs, that would be something that should raise a red flag," Hickle said.

"The response we've gotten back has been largely positive," said Kimberly Klein with O'Connor House. She said an anonymous grant of more than $70,000 will help them train hotel staff across the Valley to tell traffickers - do not disturb.

"Try and demolish some of those systems to so we can really reduce and ultimately end domestic minor sex trafficking in the U.S.," Klein said.

This team said they'll be studying which hotels are reporting the most activity. They said they'd like to have solid data by the time the Super Bowl comes into town in 2015 because sex trafficking is likely to increase then.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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