Heightened Hotel Security Could Suppress Local Sex Trafficking Industry

6 years 7 months 3 weeks ago Friday, November 30 2012 Nov 30, 2012 Friday, November 30, 2012 4:59:00 PM CST November 30, 2012 in News
By: Jessi Turnure
loading

COLUMBIA - Crimes occur in Columbia without anyone's knowledge, according to the Columbia Police Department. The main crime under the radar is the growing sex trafficking industry.   

"With guns and drugs sales, you can sell them but then you have to find more guns or drugs to sell. With a person, that person is reusable from that standpoint. So that's why many have gone to trafficking," human trafficking specialist Tim Thomason said.

Thomason said one of the main ways to fight this crime is hotel surveillance. "Cameras have helped us collaborate with information we've gotten. It has helped us in making sure information we're getting from witnesses and other people is factual information."

Kara (not her real name), a local teenager, was trapped in sex trafficking for several months. Her trafficker moved her and several other girls to different hotels to maintain a low profile. "Especially hotels with no cameras, he could walk free."

Kara was eventually able to escape, but she said if someone realized what was really happening, she and other victims could have been saved earlier.

Various hotels in Columbia with security cameras told KOMU 8 News they see suspicious activity, but admit they cannot do anything about it. "We've had sketchy figures come here before. The guy will buy the room with cash and you'll see on the cameras that a girl comes through a side door. We definitely see it happening. We just can't do anything about it because it's not like we know if it's sex trafficking or not," an anonymous hotel employee said.

But Thomason disagrees with them. "Use your gut in any crime no matter what it is. Trained hotel staff are trained to recognize things. We need that, they're in the perfect location to stop these things. The police are busy. We have lots of things going on, but we can't do this job no matter what the crime is by ourselves. There's approximately 15 to 18 police officers on the street at any given time in Columbia and to keep crime from happening in our city or find out about crime by ourselves is just impossible."

The Columbia Police Department has focused on trafficking since 2009. Since then, one case has been successfully prosecuted. Thomason said there are currently a handful of cases pending but many more victims are out there, some that will slip through the cracks. He admitted the police needs more training and more partnerships with local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to find more victims.

"We all know what a speeding car looks like because we know what the speed limit is and we know how fast we drive and what 40 miles an hour looks like. We don't necessarily know what a human trafficking victim looks like we just have that gut feeling that somethings not right. That's really all that we're looking for is people to follow their gut especially in those businesses where they may be prone to seeing those types of things."

Thomason said the reason why sex trafficking is difficult to spot is there is not one face of sex trafficking.  "It's not just a low income issue, its not just a runaway child issue. We've seen kids that excel in school across the country where they're the best kids in the world and great family support but they fall trap to a trafficker at times. You see differently economic levels involved in all of this. It's not a stereotype crime. It can happen to almost anybody."

Thomason encourages the community to let the Columbia Police Department know of any suspicious activity. "I would much rather have somebody call and it not be the case than not call and it is."

To report any sex trafficking-related activity, call 573-875-TIPS.

Related Stories

More News

Grid
List
BRUNSWICK - Like many others, Chester George and his family were forced from their Brunswick home due to flooding in... More >>
1 hour ago Tuesday, July 23 2019 Jul 23, 2019 Tuesday, July 23, 2019 6:19:00 PM CDT July 23, 2019 in News
HOLT, Mo. (AP) — Authorities are searching for two brothers from Wisconsin who were reported missing after traveling to Missouri.... More >>
1 hour ago Tuesday, July 23 2019 Jul 23, 2019 Tuesday, July 23, 2019 6:10:00 PM CDT July 23, 2019 in News
BOONVILLE - City leaders in Boonville are weighing in on the impact of a new federal grant that will fund... More >>
4 hours ago Tuesday, July 23 2019 Jul 23, 2019 Tuesday, July 23, 2019 3:30:00 PM CDT July 23, 2019 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - The number of missing sex offenders in Missouri went down significantly since last year, according to Missouri... More >>
4 hours ago Tuesday, July 23 2019 Jul 23, 2019 Tuesday, July 23, 2019 3:18:00 PM CDT July 23, 2019 in News
JEFFERSON CITY – A FEMA disaster recovery center will close at 7 p.m. Wednesday and relocate to Osage County on... More >>
6 hours ago Tuesday, July 23 2019 Jul 23, 2019 Tuesday, July 23, 2019 1:04:00 PM CDT July 23, 2019 in News
BOONVILLE - Missouri Department of Corrections spokeswoman Karen Pojmann said three officers were assaulted with an unknown liquid at Boonville... More >>
8 hours ago Tuesday, July 23 2019 Jul 23, 2019 Tuesday, July 23, 2019 11:49:00 AM CDT July 23, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA — Prosecutors charged Ryan Wade Blair, 27, with two counts of assault and endangering a correctional officer. Blair... More >>
1 day ago Monday, July 22 2019 Jul 22, 2019 Monday, July 22, 2019 7:36:00 PM CDT July 22, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - Local, state and federal agencies will be conducting emergency preparedness exercises at the Hearnes Center on MU's campus... More >>
1 day ago Monday, July 22 2019 Jul 22, 2019 Monday, July 22, 2019 6:59:00 PM CDT July 22, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - A federal judge sentenced a Columbia man Monday morning for his role in a drug trafficking case. ... More >>
1 day ago Monday, July 22 2019 Jul 22, 2019 Monday, July 22, 2019 5:27:00 PM CDT July 22, 2019 in Continuous News
COLUMBIA - The Missouri Department of Transportation will receive $81.2 million to replace the Rocheport Bridge. The money will... More >>
1 day ago Monday, July 22 2019 Jul 22, 2019 Monday, July 22, 2019 4:36:00 PM CDT July 22, 2019 in News
HOLTS SUMMIT, Mo. — A Chicago man faces criminal charges related to a suspicious package case in Holts Summit. ... More >>
1 day ago Monday, July 22 2019 Jul 22, 2019 Monday, July 22, 2019 4:11:00 PM CDT July 22, 2019 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - A roof collapsed early this morning from too much rain. The apartment complex had a temporary fix... More >>
1 day ago Monday, July 22 2019 Jul 22, 2019 Monday, July 22, 2019 2:59:00 PM CDT July 22, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA - Users of the popular social sharing site Reddit are upset after they say a scammer targeted them--posing as... More >>
1 day ago Monday, July 22 2019 Jul 22, 2019 Monday, July 22, 2019 2:50:00 PM CDT July 22, 2019 in News
MOBERLY - Contaminants stemming from an Orscheln facility may be in Moberly's air and sewers, and the City Council voted... More >>
1 day ago Monday, July 22 2019 Jul 22, 2019 Monday, July 22, 2019 2:12:00 PM CDT July 22, 2019 in News
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Close to 90,000 children and 23,000 adults have been dropped from Missouri's Medicaid health insurance program... More >>
1 day ago Monday, July 22 2019 Jul 22, 2019 Monday, July 22, 2019 2:03:00 PM CDT July 22, 2019 in News
JEFFERSON CITY - A power outage has caused Lincoln University to close for the rest of Monday. The... More >>
1 day ago Monday, July 22 2019 Jul 22, 2019 Monday, July 22, 2019 11:37:00 AM CDT July 22, 2019 in News
MACKS CREEK — A building in Camden County has collapsed after floodwaters compromised the structure. According to a Facebook... More >>
1 day ago Monday, July 22 2019 Jul 22, 2019 Monday, July 22, 2019 10:28:00 AM CDT July 22, 2019 in News
ESTES PARK, CO. — John Drage doesn’t know how many more miles he’s got left in him. Every step,... More >>
1 day ago Monday, July 22 2019 Jul 22, 2019 Monday, July 22, 2019 9:28:00 AM CDT July 22, 2019 in News
Columbia, MO
Broken Clouds 79°
8pm 75°
9pm 71°
10pm 69°
11pm 68°