Hotel workers train to spot, report human trafficking ahead of NFL Draft in Detroit

Human trafficking
Posted at 5:33 PM, Apr 03, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-03 18:33:52-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — The NFL Draft is just over three weeks away, and with hundreds of thousands of people expected to travel to Detroit for the big event, the hotel industry is taking aim at human trafficking.

The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association held the "No Rooms for Human Trafficking" training conference for area hotel workers on how to spot and report human trafficking. That includes sex and forced labor.

According to the FBI, at any point in time in Detroit, there are 300 victims of human trafficking. Ten percent are children. The bureau said that number doubles during big events and hotel are known hot spots.

Remonic Tinsley said she's worked in the hospitality industry for 22 years and 19 of those in Detroit. She currently works the front desk at The Westin Book Cadillac.

"We have a saying, 'If you see something, say something.' Even if it's the smallest thing," she said. "Depending on the property and the size of the property and how many years you have worked in the industry, you see things that are strange, that are off."

She said one's instinct may cause a situation to raise an eyebrow.

"And then you get to talking to other people and other people say, 'Yeah, I noticed that too,'" Tinsley explained.

The next move is reporting that situation to law enforcement or the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy told me, "If you're an average person who doesn't know really what to look for, your instincts are your biggest tool."

She said in many instances, it can be difficult for law enforcement to reach victims if a skillful predator has them connected at the hip. So, attentive hotel staff are key.

"Even if something looks a little strange to you, even if you're not sure, even if you may see a young girl that's approached by someone that's older, you may see their interaction and you can see the dependence they have, those are important signs to report," Worthy explained.

FBI special agent Chris Szczygiel wants to dispel common misconceptions. He emphasized that anyone, young or old, man or woman, can be a victim or a perpetrator of human trafficking.

VIDEO: FBI special agent Chris Szczygiel talks about the biggest misconception when it comes to human trafficking:

What is the biggest misconception of human trafficking?

Szczygiel said it often involves mental manipulation and that can be hard to spot.

"I think the biggest misconception is trafficking is often portrayed in either Hollywood and the entertainment industry or on social media as some kind of violent act. And then while that does happen, typically victims are coerced," he explained. "So, that means that these traffickers are purposely seeking out victims who have vulnerabilities in their life."

Dawn Ison, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, said "A large number of them are minors, but a great number of them are just adults seeking love, seeking support and seeking shelter, even sometimes. And people exploiting that need for their own gain."

She said tips are key for law enforcement, and it's better to report something suspicious than to stay quiet.

"We know that during the NFL Draft that this particular crime is heightened, and so we want to make sure that even the offenders, and quite frankly the victims, know that we remain vigilant and that we will prosecute offenders and that we will rescue victims from this devastating crime," Ison explained.

The number for the National Human Trafficking Hotline is 1-888-373-7888. You can also text "BeFree" to 233733 or go to