Sex Trafficking Hotspots and How to Report Suspicious Activity

by Frank E. Lamothe, III

Sex trafficking is a crime involving the exploitation of someone for a commercial sexual act. At least one million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking for sexual exploitation. With global profits from this heinous activity reaching almost $100 billion, this is big business for the individuals and organized crime gangs who control this trade.

Much of the forced sexual labor that takes place across the U.S. occurs in illicit massage parlors or private apartments and condos. It is estimated there are more than 9,000 of these venues across the nation – generating more than $2.5 billion annually. Seemingly innocuous ads in classified columns or store windows mask a life of sexual servitude for trafficked girls and women.

But where are the hotspots? What constitutes a suspicious activity that may be considered sexual exploitation? There are steps you can take if you think forced sexual labor is occurring.

Trafficking Hotspots

There are two types of hotspots. The first is the locations where the delivery or sale of trafficking victims occurs. The second is the places where forced sexual labor may be happening. Unfortunately, the reality is that these activities may be taking place anywhere across our nation. In suburban areas, in our inner cities, wherever there are people, you are possibly going to find some evidence of trafficking.

The actual trafficking very often takes place in or around existing transportation hubs and peripheral services:

• Airports and airplanes
• Airport motels, hotels, and parking lots
• Highways, truck and rest stops, motels, and major interchanges
• Shopping malls and mall parking lots

Staff in these locales, from hotel receptionists to flight attendants, are playing crucial roles in identifying traffickers and their victims and in aiding law enforcement agencies to rescue victims.

Many human traffickers rely on the transportation industry in each phase, from recruitment to moving and delivering victims to buyers.

Identifying Victims

It may not always be easy to spot an exchange or victims arriving at their destination. Victims may not be struggling or being physically forced. Traffickers control their victims with threats of physical, economic, and psychological abuse, threats against the victim or their family members, control of addictions, and other methods.

There is no hard-and-fast rule to spot a victim of trafficking or a trafficking exchange or delivery happening. However, some common factors may indicate you are witnessing a trafficking victim:

• Victims may have poor hygiene or be dressed shabbily
• They tend to have little or no official identification
• Victims rarely have any substantial amounts of cash on them
• If being sexually exploited, victims usually live and work at the same location
• You may spot bruises or other signs of physical abuse
• You may notice one male or female who appears to be in control as indicated by certain behaviors and body language between individuals
• Victims often work very long hours
• When spoken to, victims rarely give consistent information or life stories
• Lack of confidence and self-esteem
• They often appear afraid of law enforcement or other authority figures

Suspicious Activity

While television shows and movies may show brothels and massage parlors located in seedier parts of town, the reality is that sex trafficking is happening in plain sight around us. Even in affluent areas, large homes or exclusive condos that may be a front for illicit sexual activity.

Do you notice patterns of strange behavior? People, predominantly men, arriving at all hours of day and night and leaving after a relatively short period? Do you see lights and noise even in the middle of the night? Different cars parked outside every day and night? These could all be indicators of forced sexual labor.

Final Thoughts

If you suspect that a business or house is a front for illicit sexual activities or exchanges that may involve the victims of trafficking, call local law enforcement agencies. Similarly, if you suspect that someone is a victim of human trafficking, call local law enforcement or the national trafficking hotline at 1-888-373-7888.

The Lamothe Law Firm has successfully represented victims of sexual assault, abuse, and exploitation, recovering compensation for them and their families and helping them move on with their lives. We vigorously pursue justice but also show the utmost compassion and sensitivity to our clients and the ordeals they have survived.

If your life has been forever changed by human sex trafficking, contact us today for a free consultation and to learn how we will fight for you.

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