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Regional Human Trafficking Awareness Effort Moving Forward

Summary

The committee heard from public health experts and representatives from the County, City of Seattle, and Port of Seattle on the necessity of a public awareness campaign.

Story

Police estimate up to 500 youth, some as young as 12 years old, are being exploited for sex work every day in King County. Driven by this increase, a Metropolitan King County Council committee today sent to the full County Council legislation that may lead to an extensive effort to help prevent human trafficking across the County.

Sponsored by Councilmembers Reagan Dunn and Jeanne Kohl-Welles, the Council’s Health, Housing, and Human Services Committee sent the motion to the Council with a “Do Pass” recommendation. The committee heard from public health experts and representatives from the County, City of Seattle, and Port of Seattle on the necessity of a public awareness campaign.

According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, 163 cases of human trafficking were reported in Washington State in 2017, the majority being sex trafficking cases. That number is just a fraction of the actual instances of trafficking and abuse seen in the state, spurred by population growth in King County and throughout the state.

“King County is unfortunately a hot spot for trafficking because of our proximity to so many national and international hubs for travel,” said Councilmember Dunn. “The work we are doing is critical in helping victims and preventing future victimization in our region and beyond.”

“Human trafficking, including sex trafficking and labor trafficking, is not confined within geographical boundaries or jurisdictions and neither should our efforts to prevent, protect and provide services to victims and survivors as well as prosecute perpetrators,” said Councilmember Kohl-Welles. “I am pleased King County has been joined by a number of regional partners in this important initiative.”

A similar effort was launched in 2013 that placed signs across 200 Metro buses and billboards. This led to a 500 percent increase in calls from Washington to the National Human Trafficking hotline. The new campaign could place materials in Metro and Sound Transit buses as well as on trolleys, street cars, transit centers and stations, and in Sea-Tac Airport.

The public awareness campaign has three main goals:

• Raise public awareness about the nature of human trafficking, how and where it occurs locally, and how to prevent and stop it;
• Help identify victims and promote access to victim services; and
• Decrease demand in trafficking.

“The Port is a safe and welcoming place that reflects the values of our community,” said Port of Seattle Commissioner Courtney Gregoire. “We are honored to join governments, companies, and advocates in this campaign to stop human trafficking and ensure that the rights of all people are respected.”

The full Council is expected to discuss and possibly act on the motion at the Council’s July 30 meeting.
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