The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) continues to pour time and taxpayer money into convincing the American people that there’s an epidemic of sex trafficking here. So bad is this alleged epidemic that ordinary crime-control measures won’t work, hence the deparment is recruiting truck drivers and hotel workers to be its eyes and ears on the ground. Ugh.
Despite federal fearmongering, there’s no concrete evidence to suggest that sex trafficking is even prevalent in America, let alone on the rise. But you would never know that from listening to lawmakers, federal officials, and their local-media mouthpieces talk. And while some of this propaganda stems from good intentions, it also provides good fodder for all manner of civil-liberties abuses, from seizing sex-business assets to expanding police wiretapping power. Now it’s providing law enforcement with cover to convince citizens to spy on each other and report one another to police for perfectly normal activity.
“We would rather have you call anybody and report it to somebody,” a DHS spokeswoman told 9News Colorado, “even if it turns out to be nothing, than miss one of those victims that’s suffering.”
That’s why, as part of the “Safe Action Project,” DHS staff will train hotel and hospitality workers on how to spot the so-called signs of sex trafficking. Alleged “red flags” include:
- garbage cans containing many used condoms
- frequent use of “Do Not Disturb” sign on room door
- excessive foot traffic in and out of a room
- “excessive sex paraphernalia” in room
- an “overly smelly room” that reeks of “cigarette, marijuana, sweat, bodily fluids, and musk”
- a guest who “averts eyes or does not make eye contact”
- individuals “dressed inappropriate for age” or with “lower quality clothing than companions”
- guests with “suspicious tattoos”
- the presence of multiple computers, cell phones, pagers, credit card swipes, or other technology
- the presence of photography equipment
- minibar in need of frequent restocking
- guests with too many personal hygiene products, especially “lubrication, douches”
- guests with too few personal possessions
- rooms paid for with cash or a rechargeable credit card
- “individuals loitering and soliciting male customers”
- “claims of being an adult though appearance suggests adolescent features”
- refusal of room cleaning services for multiple days
Take heed, lovers on romantic getaways, photographers on assignment, beauty-product junkies, tech workers, cash carriers, alcoholics, late sleepers, slobs, immodest dressers, people on the autism spectrum, people with body-odor problems, single patrons seeking hotel-bar hookups, light packers, and those with a youthful appearance: DHS is onto you!
Meanwhile, in California, the Attorney General’s office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, and an organization called Truckers Against Trafficking have been teaming up to train truck drivers on how to identify and report suspected sex traffickers. The program essentially urges truckers to report people offering prostitution at truck stops, making sure to include “actionable information” such as a physical descriptions of the individual, car make and model, license plate number, etc.
“Given the cross-jurisdictional nature of the crime of human trafficking and the use of major thoroughfares by traffickers, truck drivers are particularly well-positioned to aid law enforcement,” states a press release from California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris. The training “will also feature The Freedom Drivers Project, a first-of-its-kind 48-foot mobile exhibit that includes artifacts from trafficking cases, portraits of Truckers Against Trafficking members, and ways members of the public can join the fight against human trafficking.”
Elizabeth Nolan Brown is a staff editor at Reason.com.