When Molly Hackett, a St. Louis event planner, started receiving calls from human trafficking investigators, she was floored. It never occurred to her that her expertise could aid law enforcement in curbing a fast growing crime due to the high profits and low risk to perpetrators.
Hackett first learned about this form of modern slavery while helping a client of Nix Conference & Meeting Management, who wanted to address the topic at a conference. Afterwards, she knew she could do more. So she built the Exchange Initiative, a website of resources about this type of crime.
Hackett explained that travel plays a major role in the business model of most pimps. They travel to locations with high demand, sometimes following conferences and major sporting events. Hotels provide a home base. Plus, many photos advertising prostitutes feature hotel rooms. These can be vital clues in investigations. Because Hackett’s team knows the hotel industry so well, they were able to piece together clues such as the curtains, carpets, linens and window views to identify the exact building, sometimes down to the floor.
Hackett envisions a website filled with volunteers’ photos of hotel rooms, running 24 hours a day. She reports a surge in offers from professional photographers and religious organizations who have offered to spend nights in hotels simply to upload photos. The possibilities of leveraging technology to address human trafficking are endless.
Learn more at Sharon Gutowski’s TechLI St. Louis article: Exchange Initiative: Using Technology to Combat Human Trafficking in St. Louis.