Human Trafficking Editorial From San Mateo Daily Journal

Editorial: Another way to stop human trafficking
March 20, 2013, 05:00 AM Editorial

Last week, the South San Francisco City Council passed a new policy to require hotel clerks in its city to collect basic guest information such as a real name, address and vehicle information. This rule may not seem like it’s that big of a deal, but it is surprising it took a city ordinance to require such collection.

The rationale behind collecting such data is that it will help police in their duties should a problem arise. And more and more such problems seem to be related to human trafficking.

Since 2005, the South San Francisco Police Department has investigated more than 160 cases of human trafficking involving 182 escorts and/or pimps. Just last month, two people were arrested in the city for allegedly prostituting four females, including one underage girl, at one of the city’s 27 hotels, motels or inns. Those hotels are in close proximity to San Francisco International Airport, and South San Francisco police conducted training recently to help clerks identify possible cases of human trafficking or prostitution. It was that training that helped the clerk identify the odd behavior in the February incident that led to the arrest. Another recent case involved a Windsor man who allegedly set up a sex date with minors at a South San Francisco inn. He was arrested after arranging a meeting with undercover officers who posed as the father of the minors. This case is unrelated, and is evidence of the need for a multi-pronged approach for a variety of crimes that find their way to areas of convenience such as by international airports. Training clerks is a step in the right direction in ensuring they know what to watch for when it comes to such crimes. Requiring basic information is another step in the right direction. These incremental steps amount to larger awareness of how criminals use local hotels for nefarious reasons. Without imposing on the privacy of hotel guests, clerks can use the training police provided to them to keep a watchful eye on suspicious behavior.

And the city has taken the proper step in ensuring those clerks are collecting the proper information that will assist them in investigating a number of crimes, but specifically those that involve human trafficking.

Human trafficking has received more attention lately, in part because of Proposition 35, which expanded its definition, imposed new fines and changed how evidence can be used against victims. It also required additional law enforcement training. However, it has also received more attention because it is growing and more needs to be done to stop it. While this South San Francisco ordinance is not the cure-all, it is one more tool police can use to stop this crime from taking place in our area and to capture those who exploit people for their own profit. It is also a good example of the business community working with law enforcement to stop illicit behavior.

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