FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX 56) — Kentucky’s top prosecutor is launching a new campaign to combat human trafficking. The work of the HOPE Initiative (Human trafficking Outreach Prevention and Education) has already begun and is finding the problem is a lot bigger and a lot closer to home than many would think.
Attorney General Daniel Cameron called it the latest form of organized crime, and it’s growing at a shocking rate: human trafficking through illegal massage businesses.
“These entities often appear to be licensed reputable businesses; they claim to specialize in massage services but in reality, these are not legitimate businesses. Oftentimes what we find is that they specialize in the exploitation of vulnerable men and women,” Cameron said Wednesday.
Cameron said in the past 4 years the nation has experienced a 38% growth rate in illegal massage businesses, but in Kentucky, alone, that number is 71% in the same time frame. Cameron is looking to landlords to work on shutting down the problem.
“Our office has authored over a dozen letters to landlords notifying them of the potential trafficking occurring on their property. 67% of these landlords as a result of these letters have terminated or declined to renew leases with these alleged illicit businesses,” Cameron said.
The initiative has so far only launched in 4 counties, Bullitt, Fayette, Hardin, and Laurel. Eight alleged illegal businesses have been shut down since October, including 3 in Lexington.
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“These things can pop up in anybody’s community and we need the communities help to identify them and bring them to our attention,” Lexington Police Chief Lawrence Weathers said.
Officials said this initiative’s outreach is not only limited to massage parlors, and if restaurant or hotel owners or even teachers want to get trained to recognize the signs of trafficking all they need to is reach out to the Office of Trafficking and Abuse Prevention and Prosecution.