Raising Awareness Sex slavery, which exploits young girls, has for years been a worldwide problem. And recently, it’s been encroaching on the Northwest, especially along the I-5 corridor.
“The more north you go, the worse it gets,” said Katie Wyatt, co-leader of the Pierce County Coalition Against Trafficking.
Captain Dalan Brokaw in the investigations division at the Puyallup Police Department said so far there have not been any reported incidents of sex slavery and human trafficking within Puyallup city limits. Brokaw said an FBI report in 2013 reported three cases of human trafficking in Washington state.
“All three of those were in Federal Way,” Brokaw said.
Regardless, Brokaw said the need for awareness and the need to share tools and resources to teens and parents to help them be proactive, is important.
“Anytime we can make people aware to bring about community awareness, it’s a good thing,” Brokaw said. “If it is happening, we would like people to recognize it and report it.”
At 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 24, in the Pioneer Park pavilion, the community is welcome to attend a public meeting about human trafficking awareness. At the meeting will be Shared Hope International and also Washington Engage, a nonprofit group advocating for new legislation at the state level to combat the spread of human trafficking.
Spearheading the program is Diane Kienholz, a Puyallup resident and self-proclaimed child advocate. She encourages adults, teens and preteens to attend.
“I am a mother of eight and grandmother of 12,” Kienholz said. “I did day care for 30 years. More than 100,000 minors in the U.S. are being exploited in sex trafficking and sex slavery. I stuck my foot in this because lots of communities are learning about this and I wanted my community to learn about this.”
Kienholz said statistics are showing there is an increasing demand each year for sex with children.
“So supply meets demand,” Kienholz said.
Because of Washington Engage’s lobbying, Washington state is ranked highest for human trafficking laws in the U.S. By some reports, Washington state is ranked third in the country for the frequency of human trafficking. Wyatt explained this is because of the busy airports, transit systems and railways along the I-5 corridor.
“Traffickers have easy access,” Wyatt said.
Under Washington Engage, there are eight coalitions against trafficking, including Pierce County’s coalition. Kienholz would like to see Puyallup start its own CAT. Wyatt would like to grow the base of the Pierce County CAT instead, and she hopes the meeting on Tuesday night will be a good vehicle for recruiting new members.
Brokaw said he plans to talk at the meeting about the police department’s effort in educating community groups and hotels/motels about what to look out for in regards to human trafficking. Human trafficking is often very common in hotel rooms and apartments. It’s also prevalent in massage parlors, brothels and strip clubs.
“We’re working with medical care and emergency care personnel to give them the tools for what to look out for and to let them know to contact us if they suspect a patient is a victim of human trafficking,” Brokaw said.
Brokaw explained on the same token should a hotelier suspect someone is renting a room for sex slavery, they’re encouraged to report this to police.
Kienholz has spoken to many community groups, city staff members and the city council, to drum up support.
“We have a loving, caring community and we need to work together to make it stay that way,” Kienholz said. “Safe communities draw new residents. And we want to protect our youth. Keeping Puyallup the city we love is what we’re after.”