Missouri Coalition Urging Hotel Employees to Watch For Traffickers

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COLUMBIA- Employees from around Mid-Missouri gathered earlier this week to learn how to spot human traffickers who could be staying in their hotels.

Human traffickers buy people and use them for forced labor or sex. Central Missouri Stop Human Trafficking Coalition (CMSHTC) said human traffickers often bring their victims to hotels and this is happening in Mid-Missouri.

"There is a demand for buying sex in our community. There's traffickers who are taking advantage finding vulnerable people- men, women and girls and boys," said Nanette Ward co-chair of CMSHTC. "It's just as easy to order a pizza from your hotel room as it is to order a person."

Ward said there's many websites where you can buy people for sex and/or labor and keep them basically as slaves.

Ward said some of the signs of trafficking include:

  • If a guest pays for a room in cash
  • If cleaning service is refused for several days
  • If there is excessive pornography in the room
  • If guests check in with no luggage
  • If guests are dressed in clothing not suited for the weather

"There have been survivors of sex trafficking who've said 'I wish somebody would notice I'm wearing a short skirt and heels in the middle of winter. I'm trying to look 18 but really I look 14 to you. Get a clue. Tell someone," Ward said.

Officer Tim Thomason with the Columbia Police Department said it's just as important for guests to be aware of the signs as it is for the employees.

"We can't control all of the crime by ourselves at any given time, especially such an undercover crime as human trafficking or prostitution is. We need help from other in the community," said Thomason.

Ward said if you ever are suspicious of trafficking call the police or the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text BeFree (233733).