A new Connecticut law meant to strike a blow to human traffickers is now reaching the trenches where it can make the difference. Hospitality workers are being trained to detect and report human trafficking when they suspect the illegal activity is going on where they work.
Connecticut became the first state to require the training when the law was passed last year. All employees at the more than 500 hotels, motels and lodges in the state must receive anti-trafficking training by Oct. 1.
The training is free. The curriculum was developed by groups that include Marriott International.
So far, 165 workers have completed the program offered by Quinnipiac University School of Law, the nonprofit Grace Farms Foundation, the Connecticut Trafficking in Persons Council and the Connecticut Lodging Association. The coalition plans to hold its largest training session to date July 11 at the Grace Farms campus in New Canaan.
"The goal is to teach employees to be more aware of potential trafficking signs with the hope that employees will be in a position to report their observations," said Krishna Patel, the foundation's general counsel. "Our goal has always been to create an anti-trafficking model in Connecticut that would extend to the rest of the country."
Marriott works with the anti-child slavery organization ECPAT-USA and anti-human trafficking group Polaris and has used the curriculum internally to train 6,000 company employees.
The training includes information for managers and people working in specific departments, such as safety, housekeeping and the front desk. Workers learn about sex and labor trafficking, the legal responsibilities of lodging establishments and practical tools for identifying signs of sex and labor trafficking. They also learn how to deter traffickers, report suspected crimes and help victims connect with services.
Workers generally would report suspected trafficking to managers who would then contact police. Workers also are provided contact information for anti-trafficking hotline numbers.
"Hotels being 24/7 and having so much contact with the public, the traveling public, we're always helping law enforcement any way we can," said Victor Antico, president of the Connecticut Lodging Association and owner of the Holiday Inn Express in Vernon.
He said he has never come across a case of human trafficking during his 20 years in the business, but said his hotel often cooperates with police on investigations. He is sending a manager to the July meeting, who will return to the hotel and train the staff.
The 2016 law also requires operators of hotels, motels, inns and other lodgings to keep records of all guest transactions and receipts for at least six months. And this month, Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed legislation that toughens penalties for human trafficking to 10 to 25 years in prison. The current term is one to 20 years.