TraffickCam and the Hotel Database
A waiter might raise their eyebrows when they see a young woman approaching every male guest at the bar. A housekeeper could grow suspicious when room 206 refuses to let them enter, even after a week without cleaning service. A concierge may even make a phone call after noticing a constant stream of guests entering and leaving every hour.
There are so many points of intervention when trafficking occurs in a hotel, but what can YOU do?
Hotels and motels remain a staunch stronghold for traffickers and their victims. The privacy of a locked room, combined with the accessibility for customers, makes the hotel appear a reliable place to conduct business. According to data from the National Human Trafficking Hotline, of the 2,181 sex trafficking cases handled from 2012 to 2016, 1,755 of those cases occurred in hotels and motels--an alarming 80 percent.
While these numbers are scary, they show that there is huge power in vigilance when we book our stays. This is the power that TraffickCam aims to mobilize. TraffickCam is an app created in 2015 by the Exchange Initiative to give hotel and motel guests the power to create a comprehensive room database. Users simply provide the hotel name, room number, and four photos of the room (two angles of the entire room, one of the bed, and one of the bathroom recommended). These photos ideally help detectives to match the online advertisements commonly used by sex traffickers to a more specific location. If one individual is seen in two hotels that are far away from each other, it can also help to identify the traffickers' movements.
How effective is this app? Operation Underground Railroad reports that so far, TraffickCam has received a total of 1.5 million photos from 145,000 hotels. However, most of these photos were automated retrievals from sites like TripAdvisor, not from active users. As of September 2018, the developers were still working on building up the database. However, the Exchange Initiative hopes to make the photos available to FBI investigators soon. In the meantime, why don't we all aid the collection effort by adding pictures of our own? While you work to capture the perfect vacation shot for your feed, try to make sure that you include a few of your room as well.