UW & BEST Measure Social Change

Three to five hundred children are prostituted on any given night in greater Seattle, WA and the majority of these crime
July 16, 2014

Researchers from the University of Washington School of Social Work designed several research tools to evaluate how effectively the Inhospitable to Human Trafficking program is creating social change. The data indicates that the project created substantial change, as described in the executive summary below. To read the full written evaluation by Dr. Mar Brettmann, click here.


Three to five hundred children are prostituted on any given night in greater Seattle, WA and the majority of these crimes involve hotels and motels.[1]

BEST piloted the Inhospitable to Human Trafficking project in 2012 to engage the lodging industry in human trafficking prevention efforts. When the pilot in King County proved successful, the program was scaled to four additional counties in Washington State from 2013-2104.


This 2014 program evaluation discovered a significant amount of social change—changes in knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors—which occurred among hotel participants. These changes will help to reduce and prevent the crime of trafficking in hotels, with an aim to reduce the crime community-wide.

Changes in Knowledge

Hoteliers reported a significant increase in their ability to IDENTIFY and PREVENT human trafficking in hotels. Hotel managers who attended the training are passing on this knowledge to their staff so that knowledge about human trafficking can grow exponentially.

Changes in Attitudes

Hoteliers report a significant change in attitudes about prostituted people. Prior to the training, 48% of hoteliers believed that prostituted persons freely choose prostitution. After the training only 4% held this belief and 78% believed that most prostituted persons are forced, coerced, or abused into prostitution.


Changes in Behaviors

Another significant change that occurred after the King County project was a change in behavior by prostituted persons. According to two detectives in the Seattle Vice and High Risk Victims Unit, for the first time the undercover detectives posing as buyers were having difficulty getting women to meet them in hotels in downtown Seattle.[2] The training in King County had highest participation from downtown Seattle hotels. A causal relationship has not been established. However, this behavior change reflects a primary goal of the project: to make our hotels inhospitable to this crime so that children and women will not be exploited in our communities.

The data also suggested a significant shift in behavior change. Only 8% of hoteliers reported receiving training at their hotels prior to trafficking training. After the training 89% said they would begin training their staff. In a survey taken months after the training, about half of hoteliers reported training their staff formally and 87% said that they had discussed trafficking with their staff.

It appears that hoteliers have been identifying more cases after the training. In the year before the training, only 8% of participating hoteliers had identified 1 to 5 cases; after the training, in May 2014, 44% responded that they had identified 1 to 5 cases.

Hoteliers reported additional changes in behavior on human trafficking: they (a) wrote new hotel policies; (b) spoke with company or brand leadership; (c) posted flyers in hotel; (d) invited law enforcement to do a sting operation in the hotel; (e) provided resource cards to potential victims; (f) increased security; (g) encouraged law enforcement presence on property.


Hoteliers report that more resources are needed to enable them to train their staff more effectively. BEST is developing several of these printed resources in the coming year but one outstanding need is a series of short multilingual training videos for staff.

While hoteliers report a high level of willingness to report suspected trafficking incidents to law enforcement, only a small number appear to be reporting. The primary reason hoteliers cited for not reporting is “lack of certainty the situation was trafficking.” This feedback indicates a need for additional training on indicators, which could take place through onsite staff training. Data also suggests that further meetings with law enforcement to encourage a discrete response to hotel calls would foster change. Finally, developing “in-house experts” or “trafficking champions” who can share their expertise in day-to-day experiences and build relationships with law enforcement could be extremely valuable to properties and to increase both training and reporting.

[1] Boyer, Debra, (2008) Who Pays the Price? Assessment of Youth Involvement in Prostitution in Seattle, A Study Commissioned by the City of Seattle, http://www.seattle.gov/humanservices/domesticviolence/report _youthinprostitution.pdf;  BEST study of probable cause reports on the 67 cases of sex-trafficking related crimes prosecuted in King County between October 2008 and January 2012.
[2] Meeting between Mar Brettmann and three officers from the Seattle Police Department, Vice and High Risk Victims Unit on October 22, 2013.