"Be Aware" campaign combats Chippewa Valley human trafficking

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Eau Claire is launching a pilot program to fight human trafficking by enlisting the help of hotels, the police department, and even you.

Tuesday morning Visit Eau Claire, the Eau Claire Police Department and Fierce Freedom announced a collaborative effort to combat human trafficking in the Chippewa Valley.

Fierce Freedom is heading the new campaign to train hotel workers to spot human trafficking which the organizations says is the fastest growing crime in the world affecting almost 46 million people worldwide.

Director of public policy, Jodi Emerson said, “This isn't a crime that we can fight on our own. We need people to be the eyes and ears of the police.”

The police department along with Fierce Freedom developed a first of its kind training curriculum called Be Aware that has hotels develop a response plan for the property, adopt a mission statement, and teach hospitality workers and guest the warning signs of trafficking.

Lt. Ryan Dahlgren explained, “If someone looks as though they're being mistreated, signs of excessive alcohol or drug usage, lack of personal identification, paying in cash exclusively for hotel rooms or any other amenities.”

Fierce Freedom says there are currently 16 hotels throughout the Chippewa Valley who are working towards their Be Aware certification.

Emerson added, “The bigger piece is to say we don't want this happening in the Chippewa Valley.”

The organization says it will also be launching a website by Memorial Day that rates all participating hotels either bronze, silver, or gold for their commitment to fighting human trafficking.

“We're really trying to increase the business to those who are trying to stop a crime from happening,” said Emerson. “I want to know how I can spend my consumer dollars both on a personal level and with our organization.”

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