A new terrain: can landlords help protect children from sexual exploitation and trafficking?
The travel industry has a unique and primary role to play in combatting and preventing child sexual exploitation. In the United States, children are targeted and strategically manipulated by pimps who use hotel rooms as venues for abuse and air travel has become the primary means to move children from city-to-city or across borders. ECPAT-USA has been bringing in more tourism companies on each year to sign The Code – such as Uber, Delta Air Lines, and Sonesta Resorts and Hotels. When a company joins The Code, they commit to taking six steps that will help protect children.
Creating a well-trained tourism industry leads to better protection of children who are at risk of being sexually exploited, as well as increased protection of all travelers. At ECPAT-USA, we celebrate when a new company joins The Code or in any place where steps are being taken to protect children. Now we’re seeing our efforts expand into the housing policy.
Just last month, County Council member Deni Taveras proposed a bill to protect apartment tenants and potential trafficking victims after hearing stories and complaints from multiple mothers in the Prince George’s County area.
What is the landlord’s role in protecting children?
“It is effective because it sends a message. Having something like [bills holding landlords accountable] puts people on notice that you can’t turn a blind eye… and they are a part of the solution. And if you’re not helping, you’ll be held accountable.” –Assistant Prince George’s Police Chief Hector Velez.
The bill that was proposed will keep landlords accountable and increase the safety of their tenants. It is now a misdemeanor for landlords to “knowingly” allow apartments to be used for prostitution or trafficking. The crime will be punishable by a $1000 fine or six months of jail time.
The county’s system for reporting sex trafficking crimes will be formalized. Landlords can call to find out if their properties have been reported and request training for employees on recognizing signs of human trafficking. Training is a very important and impactful step! Employees at hotels and apartments should be trained on the signs of human trafficking and how to respond because we know exploitation is happening at these locations.