Legislation reaffirming King County Council’s commitment to combatting human trafficking passed unanimously Tuesday. Sponsored by Councilmembers Reagan Dunn and Jeanne Kohl-Welles, the legislation requests that the King County Executive support and take part in the upcoming statewide public awareness campaign to prevent human trafficking.
“The upcoming statewide campaign represents a significant, coordinated effort to increase awareness of human trafficking,” said Kohl-Welles, who has been sponsoring anti-trafficking legislation since 2002, including during her time serving as a state senator. “As the most populous county in Washington, it’s crucial that King County continue finding new and creative ways to combat trafficking and make the region a safer place for all to live and work. I appreciate Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST) for coordinating this campaign, the Executive’s expressed support for implementing it, and my colleagues for joining Councilmember Dunn and I as we continue this work.”
The new statewide campaign will focus on raising awareness about the nature of human trafficking and how to prevent it, enabling victims and survivors of trafficking to self-identify and get connected with services, and promote the National Human Trafficking Hotline. It will include placing informational signs in public spaces throughout the region — including buses, trains, airports, libraries, health clinics, and police stations.
“Through my previous work as a federal prosecutor, I’ve witnessed firsthand the devastation that human trafficking causes for victims and survivors, and how too often the crime occurs hidden in plain sight,” Dunn said. “After seeing how the awareness campaign I helped launch here in King County had a real, measurable impact in the fight against human trafficking, I am very pleased to see this effort expanded to all corners of Washington state so that more of the public will be educated on how to recognize signs of trafficking, and more victims can reach help.”
Organized by Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking (BEST), the upcoming statewide campaign builds on a King County human trafficking awareness campaign that was first launched in response to legislation that Dunn sponsored in 2012. In 2018, Dunn and Kohl-Welles spearheaded a regional expansion of the campaign by collaborating with partners including King County Metro, the Port of Seattle, the City of Seattle, Sound Transit; private groups such as Alaska Airlines, Delta Airlines, Uber, and Lyft; and several King County cities. Following the 2019 campaign, Washington state had the eighth-highest call volume to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, an increase from having been ranked the thirteenth-highest state in 2018.
“Councilmember Kohl-Welles and Councilmember Dunn have spearheaded efforts within King County to participate in the upcoming statewide human trafficking awareness campaign,” said Mar Brettman, CEO and Executive Director of BEST. “I am grateful for their leadership and their shared commitment to help human trafficking victims access the services they desperately need.”
The Department of Homeland Security defines human trafficking as the use of force, fraud, or coercion to make people provide labor or commercial sex acts. This could include people like domestic workers held in a home, farmworkers forced to labor against their will, or children involved in any commercial sexual activity. Community involvement is essential, which is why authorities encourage victims, advocates, and bystanders to call the hotline with concerns or questions. The number is 1-888-373-7888, or text HELP or INFO to 233733.