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Effective Jan. 1, Iowa law will enhance training for hotel and lodging employees to spot human trafficking

Organizations that choose not to train their staff will not be able to receive any type of public funds.

DES MOINES, Iowa — The Iowa Department of Public Safety says human trafficking is a crime that flies under the radar. 

"Human trafficking is very hard to identify," said Patrick Waymire, who works as the Assistant Director for the DPS Division of Intelligence. 

A new law going into effect Jan. 1, 2022 aims to build awareness for human trafficking by training staff at any businesses offering lodging how to spot and report the crime. 

"It could be bed and breakfasts, it could be hotel, motels, it can be cabins," Waymire said.

Waymire says spotting victims can be difficult, as there's no one type of victim.

"Sex trafficking, it does not have to be just a female, it could be a male, it could be all ages doesn't have to be a minor, it can be an adult."

For the lodging organizations who chose not to follow the requirement, they would no longer be eligible to receive any public funds. 

"Those hotels that take in and can accept the federal and state government rates, it would mean that loss of that business," side Heart of America Group Founder Mike Whalen. 

Whalen's real estate and hospitality group owns 11 hotels in the Des Moines area. He says he's passionate about this new law, saying it's needed in this industry.

"We're somewhat trained to respect people's privacy, and generally ignore it as best we can to what's going on. But that needs to be heightened with the sensitivity to possible trafficking."

He adds he's learned of a number of red flags staffers can be on the lookout for. 

"They don't want anybody entering the room for any reason whatsoever," Whalen said. "Maybe some excessive noise coming from the room. People constantly, the same people coming in and out of a room."

If you are someone you know is being trafficked, contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline by calling 1-888-373-7888. You can also text HELP or INFO to 233733.

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