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Human trafficking public awareness campaign passed out of committee | King County Council
The King County Transportation, Economy and Environment Committee (TrEE) today unanimously recommended to the full Council a motion calling on County Executive Dow Constantine to embark on a human trafficking public awareness campaign. The motion calls for using King County Transit Division public service advertising to help educate the public about this heinous crime and to let victims know about the resources available to help them.
“Human trafficking has reached crisis levels here in King County and all around the country,” said Councilmember Reagan Dunn, lead sponsor of the motion. “We know that educating the public on what human trafficking is, how the public can make a difference, and getting information to trafficking victims on where to turn for help works. This Motion is an important step in our efforts to tackle this issue and I thank my colleagues on the Council and the Executive for supporting this measure.”
Last weekend, the FBI’s Innocence Lost Task Force conducted a nationwide sting. The Seattle FBI Office rescued six youth and arrested seven subjects (“pimps” and “johns”). Nationally, 79 children were rescued and 104 pimps were arrested by local and state law enforcement on a variety of prostitution related charges.
“One of the most effective weapons against human trafficking is information,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert, chair of the Law, Justice, Health and Human Services Committee. “Vulnerable populations such as immigrants and youth in particular need to know about their rights and that help is just a phone call away. We know that within 48 hours of leaving home, one in three teens will be contacted about sex trafficking. At very little or no cost, we can utilize public resources already available to reach out to those in need of help.”
“Keeping kids safe from sexual exploitation is the central mission of King County’s public awareness campaign about human trafficking,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips, Chair of the Transportation, Economy, and Environment Committee. “Knowing about the prevalence of human trafficking in our state and how to prevent it will help keep potential victims out of harm’s way.”
Human trafficking, as defined under Federal Law, includes children involved in the commercial sex trade, adults age eighteen or over who are coerced or deceived into commercial sex acts, and anyone forced into different forms of “labor or services,” such as domestic workers held in a home, or farm-workers forced to labor against their will.
“Human trafficking is modern day slavery happening right here in King County,” said Council Chair Larry Gossett. “Using Metro buses as part of an educational campaign is an excellent way to increase awareness about this often silent epidemic. It also lets victims know that help is available to them and they are not alone.”
It is estimated that between 300 and 500 children will be bought and sold in King County this year and children as young as 11 have been known to have been sexually exploited for commercial purposes in the County. The state of Washington has always been a focal point for human traffickers due to a number of characteristics including an abundance of ports, proximity to an international border, and a dependency on agricultural workers.
The amended Motion now moves to the full County Council for consideration.