H.O.P.E. initiative latest tool to battle human trafficking

Published 4:21 pm Thursday, January 26, 2023


Kentucky Today

Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced Wednesday his Office of Trafficking and Abuse Prevention and Prosecution, known as TAPP, has launched the H.O.P.E. Initiative to combat human trafficking in Kentucky.

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H.O.P.E. stands for Human Trafficking Outreach Prevention and Education Initiative, and Cameron described one of their first steps during a Frankfort press conference. “To mobilize landlords and communities to identify and shutter illicit massage businesses, that may enable human trafficking.”

He said the program is the first on Kentucky to enlist landlords to help evict illicit massage businesses, or IMBs.

“According to the latest data from The Network over the last four years Kentucky has experienced a 71% growth rate in illicit massage businesses,” Cameron said. “We know that human trafficking is happening in our communities, and the H.O.P.E. Initiative has the potential to be a real game changer in our fight against it.”

He also pointed out that since 2007, The National Human Trafficking hotline has received nearly 3,800 calls related to Kentucky. “Of these contacts, the hotline has identified 920 cases of human trafficking, involving 2,238 victims.”

Since launching the initiative, TAPP has contacted landlords in Bullitt, Fayette, Hardin, and Laurel Counties to notify them of suspected human trafficking happening on their property. This high-impact effort is designed to decrease the number of IMBs across the Commonwealth. Since October, more than half of the landlords contacted through this effort have terminated or declined to renew leases with these alleged illicit businesses.

In addition to the landlord engagement component of the H.O.P.E. Initiative, TAPP has also partnered with anti-human trafficking organizations to provide training to aid community members in recognizing and reporting businesses that may be engaging in human trafficking.

“Creating an inhospitable environment for businesses that engage in human trafficking is an important part of our work to end human trafficking in the Commonwealth,” said TAPP Executive Director Heather Wagers. “Sadly, the illicit massage industry is one of the fastest growing human trafficking industries in the country, and we hope this initiative will help change that.”

Cameron adds, cooperation from the landlords they contacted is good news.  “It shows what’s possible through the initiative. This program has the potential to be a real game-changer and save folks from the evils of human trafficking.”

Kentuckians who suspect human trafficking is occurring in their community should report it immediately to local law enforcement. Landlords can contact TAPP by calling the H.O.P.E. Initiative Hotline at 1-833-991-HOPE (4673)​.