Mass. State Bill Eyes Help From Hotel Workers To Fight Human Trafficking

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BOSTON (State House News Service) — If Massachusetts were to require employees at hotels, motels, lodging houses and bed and breakfasts to be trained to identify the signs of human trafficking, the state could help break the cycle of exploitation, according to one state rep.

Citing figures from Attorney General Maura Healey, Rep. Sally Kerans told the Joint Committee on Public Safety that people in the Boston area search for sex online thousands of times a day, often exploiting women, girls and boys in the process. Meetups take place at hotels, motels or other rented lodgings, but staff may not recognize signs of distress, Kerans said.

"What's also shocking to think is that any one of us checking into a motel or hotel could be feet away from someone trapped in prostitution and trafficking," she said. "It's not only in the small one-level motels on highways, but often in the more respectable business level hotels that sex buyers conduct their exploitation."

Kerans, Rep. Tom Walsh and Sen. Joan Lovely each testified in support of their legislation (H 2540) that would require the attorney general's office to establish a toll-free hotline for reporting human trafficking and then would require many lodgings to make "very doable and manageable efforts ... to ensure that their staff can spot what's often in plain sight by equipping their staff to spot the signs of trafficking and to post in several languages the human trafficking hotline number," Kerans said.

The attorney general would first have to approve the training program. Ever since hitting what was at the time a five-year high of 99 reported cases of human trafficking in 2017, the number of reported cases of human trafficking has been elevated. Massachusetts registered 119 human trafficking cases in 2018 and 107 in 2019, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. The 2019 report, published in November, identified 208 victims of trafficking and 41 traffickers.

Written by Colin A. Young, SHNS.

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