NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY)- Newport News Delegate Shelly Simonds (D-94th) introduced a bill to combat human trafficking in hotels.

House Bill 258 requires training for all hotel and motel staff. The Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) will develop an online class for hotel staff to recognize and report human trafficking.

The training will be free for hotel owners and employees. Hotel staff is required to take the course developed by DCJS, or a course approved by the department within six-months of employment and at least once every two-years during hotel employment.

Earlier this month, Governor Glenn Youngkin ceremonially signed it into law. The bill passed the House unanimously and passed the Senate 36-4.

“We have broad bipartisan support,” said Delegate Simonds. “When it comes to crime, this is a community problem. It’s all of our problem. It’s not something that we can say ‘oh it’s this neighborhood or it’s that city.’ We all have to take responsibility for preventing crimes like human trafficking.”

Major hotel chains already have training to recognize trafficking, HB258 now will include all hotels and motels. 

Liz Parker, President of the Newport News Hospitality Association, has 40-years of experience as a hotelier. Parker explains human trafficking is rampant in Hampton Roads. 

“I have seen unfortunate situations with human trafficking,” said Parker. “They don’t just stay in a three-star or four-star hotel. They stay at one-star or two-star hotels.”

10 On Your Side reports the number of human trafficking cases in Hampton Roads has increased during the pandemic, according to the region’s human trafficking task force.

The human trafficking hotline reports 119 cases of human trafficking in Virginia. The bill has a delayed effective date of January 1, 2023.

You can help take back the community, by looking at red flags of human trafficking:

  • Individuals show signs of malnourishment, poor hygiene, fatigue, sleep deprivation, untreated illness, injuries, and/or unusual behavior.
  • Individual’s lack freedom of movement or are constantly monitored.
  • Individuals have no control over or possession of money or ID.
  • Individuals dress inappropriately for their age or have lower quality clothing compared to others in their party.
  • Requests room or housekeeping services (additional towels, new linens, etc.), but denies hotel/motel staff entry into room.
  • Presence of multiple computers, cell phones, pagers, credit card swipers, or other technology.
  • Extended stay with few or no personal possessions.
  • Excessive amounts of sex paraphernalia in rooms (condoms, lubricant, lotion, etc.)
  • The same person reserves multiple rooms.
  • Room is rented hourly, less than a day, or for a long-term stay that does not appear normal.
  • Individuals selling items to or begging from patrons or staff.
  • Car in the parking lot regularly parked backward, so the license plate is not visible.
  • Individuals loitering and soliciting male patrons.
  • Individuals waiting at a table or bar and picked up by a male (trafficker or customer).
  • Individuals asking staff or patrons for food or money.
  • Individuals taking cash or receipts left on tables.Information from the Blue Campaign with the United States Department of Homeland Security

Check out the Blue Campaign with United States Department of Homeland Security for more information.