DES MOINES, Iowa — An Illinois woman charged with pimping and human trafficking at an Ankeny hotel last week is scheduled to be in court within the next coming days. Sex trafficking experts say Iowa is not exempt from the uptick in criminal activity. It’s an uptick investigators say they tend to see when big events come to town like the Iowa State Fair.
But one industry is working with Governor Kim Reynolds to fight trafficking. Next week, the American Hotel and Lodging Association is kicking off a national campaign to train every employee to catch and stop human trafficking.
“We are starting in Iowa with a national campaign to begin having training in all 50 states,” Chip Rogers, President and CEO of the American Hotel and Lodging Association said. “We want that training to be uniform so we created some principles for legislation. The legislation of course will be different for each and every state so we need to make sure in Iowa it’s crafted to fit what is current Iowa law and where we would like it in what is known as code section.”
“But the bottom line is this. We want all 50 states to have something in place where we know that every hotel employee in the country is being trained to be aware of, identify, and take a good point of stopping human trafficking.”
The American Hotel and Lodging Association is going to be in Iowa on Aug. 13th to not only train employees at a local hotel but also announce their intent to pursue what they are calling “model legislation” in Iowa, in hopes that other states will follow suit.
“Well, why not Iowa. We have some great friends there,” Rogers said. “It’s interesting. there’s a lot of interest in this topic from elected officials, but some of our biggest components happen to be in Iowa. Governor Reynolds will be on hand for our event on the 13th. We also have Senator Ernst. I happen to know speaker of the house Linda Upmeyer very well. She is very supportive of this effort. So we have a lot of elected officials in Iowa who want to work with us and partner with our industry to make sure we are stopping human trafficking.”
Joy Fopma is the founder of Wings of Refuge, an organization based in central Iowa that helps victims of trafficking, and says this step to combat the trafficking crisis is huge.
“I’m extremely proud of Iowa and how so many different entities have come together. This is a bipartisan issue. We agree that people being sold and bought for someone else’s gain is not ok. I think the majority of our state agrees on that. That’s the one thing we can come together and be unified on. So yes, absolutely this is huge. The Iowa Network Against Human Trafficking has done extensive work on already beginning the process of training hotel-motel staff so this is only going to make it better,” says Fopma.
Already each year, thousands of hotel employees are trained. For example, The Marriott has already trained over 600,000 of its 750,000 employees across the country. But the association is hopeful this new campaign and legislation will help make sure every hotel and every employee is doing this.