We're not always aware of it, but hotels rooms are routinely used as settings for sex trafficking. So, a new app from Washington University and the Exchange Initiative is trying to help police identify where this is happening and stop it. Through the TraffickCam app, hotel guests can upload photos of the hotels they stay in to a database that police will search when they receive a photo of a hotel where sex trafficking has taken place. Then, they can figure out where it's coming from and intervene.
The app's developer Abby Stylianou said at a human trafficking event reported by Fox 2 Now that there are actually photos all over the Internet advertising sex trafficking victims, which could then be used to locate them if the police had enough information. “Right now there are pictures posted every day. Hundreds of pictures, in every city around the United States, posted online, that show victims of trafficking, in hotel rooms posed on beds," she said.
The idea for the app formed when police approached Nix Conference and Meeting Management (which runs the Exchange Initiative) to try to identify where a photo they found of a sex trafficking victim online was taken. One member of the staff could tell where it was, and they wondered how many other people might have similar information. Now, the app has over 1.5 million images.
As the important PSA below points out, hotels, airlines, and other travel businesses are often used to transport and sell children and other non-consenting people for sex. It's more common than you think and could even be going on in the next hotel you visit.
Other ways you can help are by only staying in hotels that have adopted the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct, which outlines policies for hotels and other businesses in the travel industry to identify and stop sex trafficking, asking the hotels you stay in to adopt the Code by signing this letter, and reporting signs of sex trafficking to hotel management. Some signs of sex trafficking in hotels include adults with minors who are not their children, children who will look to an adult when asked a question instead of answering, children dressed more formally than the adults with them, and strangers coming in and out of hotel rooms.