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King County and coalitions promote awareness of human trafficking

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In recognition of Human Trafficking Awareness Day, observed nationally on January 11, the King County Council issued a proclamation of the occasion to bring regional attention to the ongoing problem of modern-day slavery.

“In Washington, we can be proud that we were the first state in the union to criminalize human trafficking, and King County successfully prosecuted the state’s first human trafficking case,” said King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert, who sponsored the County proclamation and participated in a conference about the issue last week. “Local officials and rescue organizations are working together to send a strong message that forced servitude and prostitution of immigrants and teens will not be tolerated.”

“King County is a leader in the effort to eliminate this cruel form of human slavery,” said Council Chair Larry Gossett. “Public recognition is the first step toward taking this crime from the shadows of our society and bringing it to light.”

“Human trafficking for the purposes of slave labor or sexual exploitation is problem on the rise in King County and demands awareness,” said Council Vice Chair Julia Patterson. “I hope by raising public awareness, we can begin to rescue more victims and drive out the people responsible for these unconscionable crimes against society’s most vulnerable.”

“I am very proud of the work that King County has done to help eliminate this dehumanizing crime,” said Council Vice Chair Jane Hague. “To maximize the efforts of agencies like the Washington Anti-Trafficking Response Network, the 2013 budget calls for Sheriff’s Department and public health to focus on coordinating the battle against human trafficking at all levels of government.”

Representatives from the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the Bridge Residential Recovery Program for prostituted youth, the Washington Anti-Trafficking Response Network (WARN), the Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST) Alliance and the advocacy group Washington Engage joined the Council in recognizing the regional partnerships that have come together to combat all forms of human trafficking.

“Keeping people safe from exploitation is the central mission of King County’s public awareness campaign about human trafficking,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips. “Knowing about the prevalence of human trafficking in our state and how to prevent it will help keep potential victims out of harm’s way.”

“Raising awareness and educating the public about the horrors of Human Trafficking is one of the best ways we can stop these crimes,” said Councilmember Reagan Dunn. “I am very pleased that here in King County we are focusing on human trafficking and ways to combat it.”

“A comprehensive approach is needed to curb human trafficking – and that approach must increase awareness,” said Councilmember Joe McDermott. “To end this horrendous crime, our entire community must be on the lookout for perpetrators and armed with information to help victims.”

“South King County residents have been proactive in the fight against exploitation through groups such as the Federal Way Coalition Against Trafficking (FWCAT), which hosted its second annual human trafficking forum last week,” said Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer. “Human trafficking is not just a part of our history, but also a part of our current affairs. It must be stopped.”

“Today's proclamation recognizes the seriousness and importance of combating human trafficking in King County and beyond,” said Councilmember Bob Ferguson. “We must stay vigilant in our efforts to bring criminals to justice and help the victims of such crimes.”

As many as 17,500 people are trafficked annually into the United States. Mostly women and children, these individuals endure forced labor, sexual exploitation, debt bondage and forced marriages. In an effort to bring attention to the issue and combat human trafficking, Congress has designated a National Day of Human Trafficking Awareness, and the State of Washington also recognizes the occasion.

“As providers serving victims of human trafficking in King County, WARN is encouraged by King County’s commitment to increasing awareness and hopes it will help those affected by human trafficking access services so they can escape exploitation and build a better future for themselves,” said Marie Hoffman of the International Rescue Committee.

Anyone who needs help in identifying or rescuing victims of human trafficking can contact WARN at the International Rescue Committee in Seattle at (206) 245-0782 or Seattle@theIRC.org, or the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline at 1-888-3737-888.

PROCLAMATION

WHEREAS, in 2003, Washington became the first state to criminalize human trafficking and now recognizes a National Day of Human Trafficking Awareness designated by Congress on January 11; and

WHEREAS, human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery that includes forced labor, sexual exploitation, debt bondage, and forced marriages by use of fraud and/or coercion, with an estimated 14,500 to 17,500 people trafficked annually in the United States; and

WHEREAS, unable to speak or understand English, many immigrant victims trafficked into the United States are held captive and isolated, unaware of their rights, powerless to access services, and afraid to ask for help; and

WHEREAS, homeless and runaway youth are particularly vulnerable to predators who entrap them in the sex trafficking trade, which has brought new media and law enforcement emphasis to the problem; and

WHEREAS, King County law enforcement and prosecutors are participants in the model multi-agency Washington Anti-Trafficking Response Network (WARN) that brings together service providers, criminal justice agencies, and advocacy groups to rescue victims from these conditions; and

WHEREAS, local partnerships with federal, state, county and city agencies, the Port of Seattle, and community advocacy organizations are providing training, launching the Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking campaign, and adopting new state laws to strengthen enforcement; and

WHEREAS, the National Association of Attorneys General, led by Rob McKenna of Washington State, initiated the national Pillars of Hope campaign during 2012 to increase awareness about human trafficking, hold traffickers accountable, help victims, and decrease demand;

NOW, THEREFORE, we, the Metropolitan King County Council, hereby proclaim January 11, 2013, as

                                                       HUMAN TRAFFICKING AWARENESS DAY

in King County and urge all citizens to join in efforts to combat all forms of modern-day slavery.

DATED this fourteenth day of January, 2013.



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