On Thursday, King County Councilmembers Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Reagan Dunn introduced legislation re-affirming the Council’s commitment to education about and the combatting of human trafficking. The motion also requests that the King County Executive support and take part in the statewide public awareness campaign to prevent human trafficking.
“As a region with a major international port and international airport and being close to an international border, King County has experienced persistent challenges around human trafficking, and we must continue raising awareness on the signs of trafficking and providing education on how to report it,” said Kohl-Welles, who has been sponsoring anti-trafficking legislation since 2002. “After our county’s successful regional campaign, I’m pleased that statewide efforts are underway and I’m hopeful that the Executive will support us in implementing this statewide campaign.”
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 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.
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.