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Iowa enlists lodging providers for human trafficking detection

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DES MOINES — Lodging providers in Iowa will be required to have all their employees successfully complete certified human trafficking prevention training in order to receive public funds as payment for services under a new law that takes effect Jan. 1, state officials said Monday.

Officials with the state Department of Public Safety say the lodging industry is being enlisted to help address human trafficking problems in Iowa via the statewide training initiative.

The Iowa Legislature passed a law last session that requires Iowa lodging providers who host public employees or publicly funded events and conferences to train their staff on human trafficking beginning Jan. 1. State officials estimate there are about 1,500 lodging locations in Iowa.

The scope of the new law likely will affect every community in Iowa as public funds may not be expended with any lodging provider that has not received the training certification, according to a DPS news release. Public funds include moneys from the state, a county, school corporation, special district, drainage district, unincorporated town or township, municipality, or municipal corporation or any agency, board or commission of the state or a political subdivision.

“Human trafficking directly affects Iowa given our proximity to major metropolitan areas like Kansas City and Chicago, and the intersection of two major interstate systems,” said Iowa DPS Commissioner Stephan Bayens.

Iowa Border Patrol, Stephan Bayens (copy)

Bayens

“As a result, we know human trafficking is happening in Iowa and that it frequently occurs in a hotel/motel setting,” he added. “The goal of this training is to provide lodging staff with the knowledge and tools to quickly identify and respond to human trafficking, so together we can prevent this from happening in our state. Even one victim is one too many.”

The Iowa Department of Public Safety’s Office to Combat Human Trafficking is charged with facilitating the new law and will be responsible for certifying the curriculum used in the training and that the lodging provider has met the training requirement, officials said.

The DPS is providing free online training that can be accessed 24/7 at its new website StopHTIowa.org.

In addition to hosting the online training and an administrative portal, the site contains tips for spotting human trafficking activity The public-facing site contains an interactive map of state-certified lodging providers, as well as a list of organizations that are qualified to administer the training. To assist customers in determining a lodging provider’s compliance, all state-certified lodging organizations will be required to display their human trafficking training certification in the lobby or registration area.

According to public safety officials, human trafficking is a crime involving the exploitation of youth under 18 for commercial sex; the exploitation of adults for commercial sex through the use of force, fraud, or coercion; and the exploitation of any individual for compelled labor. Human trafficking does not require the transportation of individuals across state lines or that someone is physically restrained.

Like most crimes, DPS officials say human trafficking may be hidden from public view, and it can be challenging to determine the incidence and prevalence of the crime. The Iowa Office to Combat Human Trafficking has seen increased reporting of human trafficking activity occurring in Iowa, but it is difficult to say whether the increased reporting is the result of increased trafficking or more robust reporting.

Signs that a person is being trafficked can include working excessively long hours, unexplained gifts, physical injury, substance abuse, and being controlled or closely monitored by another person.

DPS officials say human trafficking concerns should be reported by calling 911 or the Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888.

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