Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Human trafficking, hotels, and school safety

This post will make you uncomfortable.  If you read the below slides and watch the linked videos, you'll learn more facts about the subject of human trafficking than you care to know.  It is not a subject most people would want to investigate, but with the Town of Davidson looking at a proposal for a new hotel next to one school and across from another, it is one that needs investigating.

Many parents are concerned with what a hotel in such close proximity to a school could mean.  Hotels often bring out bad behaviour in people, even nice hotels, so having one so close to schools is worrisome.  In an effort to learn more aShortChronicle contacted "The Guardian Group".  This is a non-profit in Washington State dedicated to combating sex trafficking.  Here's how this group describes itself on its website.

"Guardian Group is a “Team of Teams,” comprised of former special operations military, law enforcement and intelligence community professionals, working to end sex trafficking in the United States. Our team has experience leading organizations within the United States Department of State, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Justice. While the rescue and recovery of children is paramount, our offensive advantage enables us to disrupt the exploitation cycle before rescue becomes necessary."

aShortChronicle asked GG what they thought about placing a hotel near schools in Davidson, an "affluent suburban college town just north of Charlotte".  Alex Dugan, Lead Engagements Officer, replied with the following.  

"Sex trafficking is a risk for unsuspecting children. The first thought that comes to mind when reading your email is the controversy of placing a hotel across the street from an elementary school while also in close proximity to another private school. Many people believe that sex trafficking is an issue found in other countries, but in reality, it is all around us in the US. Over 300,000 youth, both boys and girls, are bought and sold across the nation each year. Sex Trafficking is a 150-billion-dollar criminal industry and is the fastest growing crime in the United States. I guarantee that there are children, right now, being sold for sex in the community in which you live.

Sadly, much of this illicit activity occurs within hotels. Pimps favor hotels because it is thought to be relatively anonymous with minimal liability. No matter the size of your town, sex sells and sex trafficking is very real. Having a hotel in such close proximity to two schools, places children at unnecessary risk. They could potentially have unwanted contact with a potential predator. The accepted stats state that the average victim lured into trafficking in the United States is 12-14 years old."

12 -14 years old is the same age as the middle schoolers who will be right next door.

What also drew aShortChronicle to Guardian Group was its training program  designed specifically for the hotel industry.  GG provided the below deck as an example of the program content.  Click to enlarge.

People who want to look the other way on this issue might say to themselves after reading the above "well, that can't happen here, not in Davidson.  Plus, this is a high end hotel chain being proposed.  That will prevent bad things from occurring."  Anyone who thinks that should ask themselves what types of hotel chains would pay for this kind of training?  Do they really think it is just the lowest of low-end establishments?
No, according to a follow up conversation with Dugan, the training is designed for all hotels because hotels regardless of brand have to deal with this issue.

So, the planning question to ask in Davidson is this.  Is it really a good idea to put a commercial use next to a school when that specific commercial use even has to concern itself with a training program like the one presented here.  It is a use that has the potential to attract predators to the immediate area, so why would you even consider putting it near a school?

If one still wants to put their head in the sand, saying this can't happen here in Davidson, watch the below videos.  These are by a man named Bo Quickel.  Quickle is with an organization named Vigilante Truth.  It is an organization based in the Lake Norman Area that also fights human trafficking.

Click to watch video

In this video posted in January of this year, Mr Quickel is speaking to the Charlotte Rotary Club.  Watch the whole video, but notice what he says starting at minute 3 about the group's intervention efforts at regional hotels "including the Lake Norman region". You can watch more of Quickel's comments to the Rotary Club here.

These next three videos are also worth watching.  In these videos Quickel is speaking to officials in Rowan County. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Still think it can't happen locally?  Take a look at the below graphic from the National Human Trafficking Hotline provided via the Polaris Project.  This map is from its 2016 Hotline report for North Carolina.  The Polaris Project is based in Washington DC and is yet another organization committed to combating human trafficking.  Take a look at the dots between Charlotte and Statesville right on I77.  Where do those look like they are located?  Right in Davidson's own back yard.  That's where.

So, what is the point of all this information?  Won't people just call it fear mongering?

Well, those who support Davidson Town Hall at all costs certainly may.  Those who benefit from this project either directly or indirectly almost certainly will.  However, those people can go pound sand if that's the case.  Posting this information isn't for their benefit, and it isn't being presented to say another hotel should never be built in town.  Hotels have their place.  That place just isn't right next to schools.

This is an important decision, and it involves the safety of children.  It is not just another academic exercise in the Planning Department at Davidson Town Hall.  It isn't about a few extra tax dollars in town coffers.  To date, public discussion of this aspect of safety for this proposed project has been woefully inadequate.   It's as if Town Hall is avoiding the subject because it is uncomfortable.  It is definitely that, but that's the job they signed up to do.  They need to do it.

The best and most certain way to handle this risk is to simply vote down this proposal.

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