Attorney General Mark Brnovich has announced that his office, the Arizona Anti-Trafficking Network, and Homeland Security Investigations are teaming up with the city of Scottsdale to train all public employees on how to identify, report, and prevent human and sex trafficking.
The program is part of the Safeguarding All From Exploitation — also known as SAFE — Action Project launched in 2019, according to a press release.
“Stopping human trafficking takes the community coming together,” said Attorney General Mark Brnovich. “I am proud of our community outreach team and their work to help the SAFE Action Project evolve since it was first launched; now providing critical training to one of Arizona’s largest cities. Together, we are making a difference and helping exploited, vulnerable individuals in our communities.”
Tourism is a huge industry in Scottsdale. Special events attract millions of visitors every year. Unfortunately bad actors are also drawn to popular destinations to traffic victims, the press release stated.
Combating the issue requires the involvement of the entire community, which is why the city of Scottsdale is working with the AGO, AATN and HSI to offer this training to all employees.
“Scottsdale prides itself on being a safe community – we are a safe place to live, and a safe place to visit and do business,” said Mayor David D. Ortega. “It is very sad to know that these terrible kinds of crimes can occur here or anywhere. Working with the Attorney General’s Office to train our workforce will equip our staff to spot these situations and could help save someone who is being exploited. We are committed to being part of the solution.”
Starting at the end of September, SAFE will begin training more than 2,400 city of Scottsdale employees across all departments including Human Services, Community and Economic Development, Public Works, Parks and Recreation, City Court, and the Scottsdale Police and Fire departments. Once 75% of employees complete the training, Scottsdale will become the first city to be SAFE certified.
“AATN and SAFE are thrilled about this initiative by the city of Scottsdale to train its employees and police officers on how to recognize the signs of sex trafficking,” said John Meza, AATN’s board president. “Teaching people how to identify victims is the first step in being able to combat sex trafficking, and we are proud to partner with Scottsdale as we make our cities safer for the most vulnerable.”
“As a law enforcement agency tasked to investigate and combat human trafficking, we anticipate that this initiative will prove invaluable,” said Special Agent in Charge for HSI Phoenix, Scott Brown. “HSI continues to take every step to better equip not just other law enforcement agencies, but our local community in the ongoing effort to fight human trafficking in Arizona and across the nation.”
Additionally, SAFE will work with the Scottsdale Police Department’s Human Exploitation and Trafficking (HEaT) Unit to provide training to Scottsdale’s restaurants and bars on the warning signs of human trafficking and what staff should do if they see the crime occurring in their establishment.
“Protecting the most vulnerable is a critical part of the police department’s mission, and this partnership aligns with our efforts to fight human trafficking and exploitation. No city is immune from these horrible crimes, including ours. In response, I recently brought a unit online that focuses wholly on reducing involuntary servitude and sex trafficking through education, enforcement, and human services. These alliances and the efforts of SAFE are key components in what takes a team approach to combat.”
- Scottsdale Police Chief Jeff Walther
The goal of SAFE is to reach all corners of the tourism industry, including hotels, restaurants, bars, ride-sharing, airports, stadiums, and other places where large groups of people gather and travel. The program was launched in July 2019 at Phoenix Sky Harbor, in collaboration with American Airlines, and expanded to hotels and motels in January 2020.
The SAFE program kicked-off its hotel and lodging training initiative on Jan. 15, 2020, with a training day for employees at The Phoenician resort. Since then, the project has been focused on educating destination marketing organizations, hotels, motels, and other tourism-related businesses.
Hotel Valley Ho was the first hotel in Arizona to receive its SAFE certification last year. Approximately 220 employees completed the training, including front desk, guest services, security, housekeeping, and additional support staff.
SAFE Certified Organizations include:
Fighting human trafficking is a top priority for Attorney General Brnovich, the press release stated. Since taking office in January 2015, the office has prosecuted or is currently prosecuting over 250 cases connected to sex trafficking, child sex trafficking, sexual exploitation of minors, or illegal enterprises/money laundering in the trafficking arena. Those numbers include all forms of sex trafficking and other illegal enterprises involving the sexual exploitation of others.
Travel and tourism businesses can watch web-based industry-specific training modules here on the SAFE website. They can also request in-person training here.
To date, the SAFE Action Project has trained over 1,900 Arizona tourism professionals and 16 businesses have achieved the SAFE Certification recognition.