Mayor Mike McGinn and Metropolitan King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn presided Wednesday over the unveiling of a billboard that asks for the public’s help in stopping human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation.
The billboard, in the 2100 block of Westlake Avenue North in Seattle, is one of 13 such displays between Bellingham and South Tacoma being donated by Clear Channel Outdoor as part of a campaign with the city and county. The donation amounts to $94,000 in advertising space.
Additionally, Clear Channel Entertainment+Media has donated $88,000 of airtime for hundreds of anti-trafficking public-service announcements to be aired on various radio stations.
McGinn called human trafficking a serious problem that is “happening here in our community.”
Hundreds of people, including many juveniles, are trafficked in the region each year for sex, manual labor, domestic labor and more, McGinn said in a prepared statement handed out at the unveiling.
Human trafficking, as defined under federal law, includes children involved in the commercial sex trade, adults 18 or older who are coerced or deceived into commercial sex acts, and anyone forced into different forms of labor or services against their will or under threat.
The billboards, including digital displays, direct people in English, Vietnamese, Korean and Spanish to report suspected human trafficking to a national hotline at 1-888-373-7888. The ads also point people to a website, kingcounty.gov/humantrafficking, to get more information.
“It’s essential that this message goes out in as many languages as possible,” Dunn said in a prepared statement that thanked Clear Channel.
Victims come from all over the world and some locally, the statement said.
Seattle police Capt. Dave Emerick, who oversees a unit handling human trafficking, said people also can call 911 or the vice unit of their local law-enforcement agency, or even anonymously make a report by contacting Crime Stoppers by phone or the Internet if they see something suspicious — 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or crimestoppers.com.
“You get a feeling if something doesn’t look right,” Emerick said, citing inappropriate contacts between adults and juveniles as one example.
The campaign follows another effort, launched in mid-January by King County, to reach potential victims and the public through ads posted in six languages on 200 Metro buses.
This story contains information from Seattle Times archives.
Steve Miletich: 206-464-3302 or