For the Reporter
The King County Council has declared January Human Trafficking Awareness Month in recognition that trafficking is now the world’s second-largest and fastest-growing underground economy.
“Our regional, local and state leaders and many organizations have been at the front of the battle against human trafficking for two decades,” said council member Jeanne Kohl-Welles, a co-sponsor of the proclamation. “The scourge of these crimes continues, but thanks to the early and continuing efforts of Emma Catague, Velma Veloria, and Sutapa Basu, among others, we have powerful tools to use in fighting these horrors and inhumanities.”
“King County offers resources to victims of human trafficking that can be accessed throughout our region,” said Council Vice Chair Reagan Dunn, proclamation co-sponsor. “It’s our hope that in working to promote awareness of this heinous crime, we’re able to reach someone in need.”
Legislation introduced by former state Rep. Velma Veloria made Washington the first state in the country to create an anti-trafficking task force in 2002 and to criminalize human trafficking in 2003. As a member of the Senate in 2002, Kohl-Welles sponsored legislation signed into law that provides protection to immigrants who come to Washington to marry residents through the services of international marriage brokers, which were found to be problematic because they leave people vulnerable to exploitation.
King County has been a leader in the effort to end human trafficking. Law enforcement agencies and prosecutors in King County work closely with the Washington Anti-Trafficking Network (WARN), a coalition of non-governmental organizations that provides direct services to survivors of human trafficking in the state, helping them on their path to restoration and recovery.
The effort has grown through the establishment of King County’s Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (“CSEC”) Task Force to help ensure the safety of young people who are survivors of sexual exploitation. In addition, the King County Prosecutors Office established the “Buyer’s Beware Program” with the Organization of Prostitution Survivors.
King County continues to work with NGO’s, such as API Chaya, Coalition of Immigrants, Refugees & Communities of Color, and Seattle Against Slavery.