Travelers will see an increasing number of ads and posters raising awareness at the airport and on buses, as the Port of Seattle and King County Metro step up a campaign against labor and sex trafficking.
The campaign is in the hope of letting victims of sex or labor trafficking know how to find help.
“Human traffickers prey on people in our community who are vulnerable, specifically targeting people of color,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine in a prepared statement. “Our united effort will connect survivors with the resources they need to break free and thrive once again.”
The primary goal of the campaign is to increase the number of trafficking survivors that call a national hotline to receive assistance and resources. It also includes an increased effort to share resources across the region.
January is National Human Trafficking Awareness month.
Partners include King County Council, the Port of Seattle, the city of Seattle and Sound Transit, as well as corporate partners Alaska Airlines and Delta Airlines. Expedia Group, Uber, Lyft, the Snohomish County Lodging Association. Several other King County cities are also involved with the program.
Washington state ranked 13th in the nation for active human trafficking cases in federal courts in July 2018, according to the SeattlePI. Most of these cases nationwide involve the enslavement of victims for sex trafficking, and the vast majority in 2017 were internet-based, according to a report by The Human Trafficking Institute. Between 2012 and 2017, the number of reported human trafficking cases in Washington state doubled.
The campaign is modeled after a similar effort by the King County Council in 2013. That campaign resulted in a 63 percent increase in calls made to the National Human Trafficking Hotline by people in Washington state, according to the Port of Seattle.
With Seattle being a port city and transit hub, it offers many transit points for traffickers.
Victims and survivors are disproportionately people of color while the majority of people charged with trafficking are white, according to local and national organizations.
According to a 2013 report by the Office of Victims of Crime within the Department of Justice, 40 percent of confirmed sex trafficking victims were black, despite being less than 13 percent of the U.S. population. Of confirmed labor trafficking victims, 56 percent were Hispanic and 15 percent were Asian, despite making up approximately 16 percent and 5 percent of the U.S. population respectively.
There are several risk factors that lead to a higher vulnerability to trafficking. Runaway and homeless youth are particularly susceptible, as are foreign nationals, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Most trafficking survivors did not arrive from abroad, but already lived within the U.S. and usually within vulnerable populations, according to the press release. The Washington Anti Trafficking Response Network, a coalition of NGOs servicing trafficking survivors, found 90 percent of their referred trafficking victims to be foreign nationals.
The announcement also comes as airlines are ramping up efforts to recognize and report trafficking.
“Flight attendants are often the first line of defense in identifying and reporting potential human tracking situations,” said Ron Calvin, Vice President of Inflight Operations at Alaska Airlines.
To reach the National Human Trafficking Hotline, call 1-888-373-7888 or visit humantraffickinghotline.org for more information.