Hotels and Human Trafficking: Some Companies Taking Action - NBC 6 South Florida
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Hotels and Human Trafficking: Some Companies Taking Action

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    Company Taking Action Against Human Trafficking

    Florida is one of the top states for human trafficking cases. Some victims say businesses aren't doing enough to protect them, but one company says they're taking action.

    (Published Thursday, May 16, 2019)

    They're forced into having sex for money. Sex trafficking happens in all types of places. It could even be happening in the hotel room next to where you're staying.

    "I just want them to actually do something that is going to change this, no one else should have to go through this," a sex trafficking victim said. "It's something that stays with you forever."

    The woman said as a teenager she was taken to various hotels and forced to have sex with men.

    "When you can have a conversation with a 16-year-old who's clearly dressed inappropriately and watch all these people come in your room and still say nothing, something's not right," she said.

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    Florida ranks 3rd in human trafficking cases, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

    Some victims say businesses aren't doing enough to protect them.

    The Polaris Project, an anti-trafficking group, has recorded 3,300 cases of sex trafficking in hotels over a ten-year period.

    Police reports show it's happening across South Florida.

    "We've met with a lot of the hotel industry ourselves and said, 'Look you might not suspect this, but this is going on in your facilities and it's a liability issue and it's also a morality issue,'" said Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.

    The state attorney says traffickers are attracted to South Florida for the same reason tourists visit the area: the weather, the attractions and the diverse population.

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    The Marriott Corporation is training all of its workers on how to spot signs of human trafficking and how to report those signs to management.

    "We are bringing awareness to our hosts about this terrible crime that's happening," said Andres Banus, the room operations manager for Marriott Stanton South Beach.

    "Florida is a hotbed for this and we just want to be prepared," Banus said.

    The company gave NBC 6 access to one of the training sessions where they teach employees how to detect trafficking activities that could be taking place.

    They warned them to watch out for customers asking for rooms near an exit, for a person standing guard outside a hotel room and even to young women and men not making eye contact or speaking with hotel workers.

    "We just keep our eyes open," Banus said. "Not just one sign could mean something but the joining of many of them might mean something and at the end of the day this is to save lives."

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    Companies, like hotels, can be held liable for human trafficking activities in court.

    Lawsuits have been filed in states like Texas and Pennsylvania claiming corporations benefited from the human trafficking of minors and failed to take reasonable steps to protect victims.

    A non-profit group against child exploitation has found four states require mandatory training for hotel workers. Florida isn't one of them.

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