Metro Transit ads, County websites, Help Line to be used to raise awareness of crisis and help victims
StoryThe Metropolitan King County Council today gave its unanimous approval to a motion calling for the County Executive to embark on a human trafficking public awareness campaign. The motion calls for using King County Transit Division public service advertising to help inform the public about these crimes and to let victims know about the resources available to help them.
“As a former federal prosecutor and member of the County Council I have seen this crisis continue to grow,” said Councilmember Reagan Dunn, lead sponsor of the motion. “Educating the public on what human trafficking is and providing information to trafficking victims on where to turn for assistance will help to combat these crimes. This motion is an important step in protecting our children and using Metro resources in a positive way.”
Just a few weeks ago, the FBI’s Innocence Lost Task Force conducted a nationwide sting. The Seattle FBI Office rescued six youth and arrested seven individuals—both pimps and johns. Nationally, 79 children were rescued and 104 pimps arrested by law enforcement on a variety of prostitution related charges.
“Along with new laws and additional enforcement efforts, this information outreach project will add another tool to use in battling human trafficking,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert, Vice Chair of the Law, Justice, Health and Human Services Committee. “It is an unfortunate reality that one in three teens on the street may be lured into sex trafficking within 48 hours of leaving home. Vulnerable populations such as youth and immigrants need to know about their rights and how to get help. Our transit system can be another effective vehicle for that message.”
“Keeping kids safe from sexual exploitation is the central mission of King County’s public awareness campaign about human trafficking,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips, Transportation, Economy, and Environment Committee Chair. “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.”
Human trafficking, as defined under Federal Law, includes children involved in the commercial sex trade, adults age eighteen or over who are coerced or deceived into commercial sex acts, and anyone forced into different forms of “labor or services,” such as domestic workers held in a home, or farm-workers forced to labor against their will.
“Human Trafficking is a crime that truly spans the globe, but far too many of its victims are as close as the neighborhoods we live in,” said Council Chair Larry Gossett. “This campaign will not only provide information to those who don’t realize how close it is and warn those exploiting young people—but it will also provide a much needed lifeline to those trying to escape.”
It is estimated that between 300 and 500 children will be bought and sold in King County this year and children as young as 11 have been known to have been sexually exploited for commercial purposes in the County. The state of Washington has always been a focal point for human traffickers due to a number of characteristics including an abundance of ports, proximity to an international border, and a dependency on agricultural workers.
“Our region ranks as one of top locations in the world for human trafficking,” said Councilmember Julia Patterson. “This ordinance is a step in the right direction to help raise awareness and do what we can here in King County to protect the victims.”
“We need to engage our communities through increased awareness and expand outreach to victims of exploitation,” said Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer. “This campaign marks an important beginning in combatting the growing problem on human trafficking.”