I’ll be at the Washington BEST (Businesses Ending Slavery and Trafficking) kick-off later tonight in Belltown. Washington BEST is a new business-led initiative to combat human trafficking. It's an alliance that encourages businesses to adopt policies that explicitly oppose trafficking and to follow practices that prevent it from occurring on their premises. The Council passed a resolution supporting this initiative two weeks ago.
Businesses can be a powerful resource in the fight against trafficking. For example, in the area of sex trafficking, cabs, restaurants, bars, hotels and motels, and even retail malls are often locales used by traffickers. Businesses can educate employees about the problem, train employees to identify and report suspicious activity appropriately and make their premises and operations unwelcoming and risky to human traffickers.
The Washington BEST initiative is the latest great example of how Seattle and Washington State continue to be national leaders in the fight against human trafficking. Since 2002, we have passed a number of critical laws to counter this scourge:
- Expanded the definition of criminal profiteering to include human trafficking and adopted criminal penalties for human trafficking.
- Banned sex tourism.
- Established commercial sexual abuse of a minor as a criminal offense with increased penalties for “johns” and the predators who promote the prostitution of children.
- Enabled police, prosecutors and the courts to treat prostituted children as crime victims and divert them out of the criminal justice system.
- Supported police and prosecutors by allowing one-party consent voice recordings in investigating cases involving the commercial sexual abuse of minors.
I am particularly proud that we opened The Bridge in 2010, the only facility in Washington where children who have been sex trafficked receive intensive services in a residential setting. A few weeks ago, the state legislature adopted a ground-breaking bill that prohibits advertisers from knowingly publishing “escort” ads involving minors. It also requires advertisers—including online advertisers like backpage.com—to keep records of the identification used to verify ages of persons in these types of ads.
Finally, the Center for Children and Youth Justice is working in communities across the state to develop victim-centered protocols for first responders, police, the courts, and social service providers that will make Washington a leader in establishing a statewide coordinated response to victims of sex trafficking.