New data reveals that a regional human trafficking awareness campaign led to a significant rise in the number of survivors and others contacting the National Human Trafficking Hotline from Washington state.
The campaign, begun in 2019 with legislation sponsored by King County Councilmembers Reagan Dunn and Jeanne Kohl-Welles pushed the state from 13th highest of all states in 2018 to eighth highest in call volumes in 2019. That uptick indicates more people are reaching out for help and resources, or to report suspicions about potential human trafficking.
“Since I first brought legislation to the Council to launch a human trafficking awareness campaign, many partners from across the region have joined our effort to raise awareness and reach victims of trafficking,” Dunn said. “Without their overwhelming support, and without the collaboration of my colleague Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, this surge in hotline usage wouldn’t have happened and lives would not have been saved. This progress is certainly encouraging, but it’s also a sobering reminder that this devastating crime against humanity happens right in front of us, and all too often. Now, as the pandemic and economic downturn leave even more people vulnerable to exploitation, it’s imperative that we continue to expand our reach.”
“I’m very pleased to see that the awareness campaign initiated by my colleague, Councilmember Dunn, and me appears to be working,” Kohl-Welles said. “In 2019, we launched this awareness campaign with the intent of leveraging public-private partnerships in order to make sure that more people in our community are sufficiently informed to identify the signs of human trafficking and feel empowered to take action by reporting incidents. The increased rate of calls on the National Human Trafficking Hotline is a sign that Washington state residents are better equipped than ever to respond to human trafficking. As someone who has dedicated much of my career to addressing this issue, I find it heartening to say the least. Thank you to Councilmember Dunn and our regional partners for working with me in pushing this effort forward!”
The awareness campaign builds on a successful effort led by the King County Council in 2013, which was launched in response to legislation that Dunn sponsored that year. After the initial 2013 campaign, the National Human Trafficking Resource Center’s hotline saw an increase in calls made from Washington State of over 63%.
The current campaign, which is ongoing and includes signage in public spaces throughout the region – including buses, trains, airports, libraries and more – set out with three main goals:
- Raise public awareness about the nature of human trafficking, how and where it occurs locally, and how to prevent and stop it;
- Help identify victims and promote access to victim services; and
- Decrease demand in trafficking.
King County partnered with the Port of Seattle, the City of Seattle, Sound Transit, Alaska Airlines and others to conduct the campaign.
King County has long been a hotspot for human trafficking because of its multiple airports and proximity to major ports, an international border and interstates.