Training and knowledge of human trafficking for multifamily on-site staff teams is important and remember to focus on situations and behaviors rather than appearances, since traffickers come from all walks of life.
By Lori Agudo
Human trafficking is a crime and a tragedy that affects people of all ages, genders, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds, as well as all communities, including multifamily. If you can believe it, the United States is one of the worst areas in the world for human trafficking, with an estimated 199,000 incidents per year.
However, because of the difficulty in identifying human trafficking, less than 10 percent of incidents are reported each year. Only through continual education and training can the nation address this frightening abuse of humans and move toward reducing and removing it from society. With a lack of boundaries for where the victimization can occur, multifamily will have its share of trafficking – but there are ways for property managers and onsite associates to recognize it.
In 2021, the state of Florida mandated that apartment communities and other public lodging establishments provide annual training on human trafficking awareness to employees. At Royal American, it is now a requirement for all on-site staff, including outside the state. As stewards in our community, it’s imperative that we work towards the rights and safety of individuals, and the right training can save lives. All on-site staff in the service industry can benefit from this training. Keep in mind that having this training available in multiple languages is crucial for employees who feel more comfortable taking coursework in their first language.
Our teams have found this training to be invaluable. When the company began offering training for identifying trafficking, many employees expressed gratitude for the education. Many were unaware this type of crime was present in multifamily, and they were appreciative of the tools that provided increased awareness and the ability to identify possible trafficking situations during everyday interactions. Now, on-site teams work diligently to pay close attention to each interaction they have with residents and applicants. They are also looking for signs of human trafficking while conducting monthly unit inspections.
The Facts of Human Trafficking
Human trafficking is often confused with migrant smuggling, but the two are very different. While human trafficking does involve movement across borders, that factor is not required. Trafficking goes far beyond that, focusing on the exploitation of adults and children for the purposes of financial gain.
In addition to the 199,000 estimated annual incidents in the United States, there are approximately 24 million people in the world being trafficked at any given moment. More than 70 percent of the victims are women and girls, and only around one percent of victims are ever rescued, making identification all the more critical.
In the United States, human trafficking has overtaken drug trafficking as the nation’s top-growing crime because victims can be used repeatedly. Traffickers will use their victims for an average of three to five years. In the United States alone, the money generated annually from trafficking is about $100 million.
Traffickers have no consistent profiles. As with their victims, perpetrators of trafficking cross all standard societal lines, and it’s not only strangers who prey on victims. Family and friends are frequently involved in this criminal activity. As a result, the identification of traffickers cannot be based on any stereotypes, and being aware of specific behavioral and social cues can often identify a human trafficking crime.
The Three Main Types of Human Trafficking
There are three primary types of human trafficking. Human trafficking, while obviously illegal, is not always blatant. Workers in private homes, retail establishments and several industries may also be caught up in trafficking scenarios.
- Child sex trafficking: The use of force, coercion or fraud to compel a person under the age of 18 to engage in commercial sexual activity. This can occur in homes, brothels, hotels or on the Internet.
- Adult sex trafficking: In order to stamp out the use of the nonsensical term “child prostitute,” this was created as a separate term in trafficking. Force, fraud and coercion may not always be present in adult sex trafficking, and a degree of consent could be present. It is still exploitation of the victim by the trafficker, and it usually takes place in the same areas as child trafficking.
- Labor trafficking: The use of fraud, force and coercion to push someone into providing work or services. This can include agriculture, domestic work, restaurants, cleaning services, and carnivals. Domestic servitude (work in a private residence) and forced child labor (use and transportation of children for work) are also forms of labor trafficking.
Indications of Human Trafficking
While this section will focus on the identification of human trafficking in a multifamily community, many of these behaviors can also present themselves in other places. It’s vital to remember to focus on situations and behaviors rather than appearances, since traffickers come from all walks of life. The following are a few things to on-site staff to observe:
- Living situations: Apartments that are used for trafficking may have too many residents than the unit is designed for. Unusual or unsuitable living conditions may also be present, such as multiple mattresses on the floor, blacked-out windows, and locks designed to keep people in instead of out. Movement in and out of the apartment may appear odd, including frequent, short visits of 15 to 45 minutes by non-residents. Traffickers may not want to stay in one area too long, so a short-term lease coupled with these signs could be a red flag for on-site staff.
- Actions and activity: Property managers should look for groups of people picked up and dropped off at the same time almost every day with none of them allowed to travel on their own. Traffickers will also inquire about the locations of cameras and other security features. Victims may not have access to their own documents and may refuse to answer questions, deferring to the person they are with. Another red flag for on-site teams is if the person they allow to answer questions is unfamiliar with the victim or is unclear with information regarding the person.
- Behavior and demeanor: While some may refuse to answer questions, victims of trafficking may also respond with answers that sound scripted and rehearsed. They may also appear to be timid, fearful and submissive while declining to make eye contact when spoken to. The presence of law enforcement can cause discomfort or anxiety for both traffickers and their victims. Victims may exhibit physical or mental signs that indicate exploitation. They can appear to be hungry, thirsty or sleep-deprived, as well as display confusion, disorientation or a lack of knowledge of their whereabouts.
Steps to Take for Suspected Trafficking
If you spot the above signs in your community or at a specific unit, it is always best to take action. Unfortunately, law enforcement is not always the best course of action when it comes to trafficking situations, since they may not be able to immediately address the situation. Multifamily managers and associates can report suspected trafficking situations to the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 (TTY: 711) or by sending an SMS text to 233733.
About the author:
Lori Agudo is a multifamily educator, philanthropist, and legislative advocate. She is the Director of Training and Talent Development at Royal American Management Inc. An expert in developing teams and curriculum, Lori is a facilitator of many workshops including the Facilitator Training Program, Hiring 101, and the Future Leaders program for the Apartment Association of Greater Orlando. Lori is also an </stro
ng>instructor for Certified Apartment Manager and Certified Apartment Leasing Professional credential programs.