Chief of Police
45 Center Street
Burlington, MA 01803
For Immediate Release
Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017
Contact: John Guilfoil
Email: [email protected]
Burlington Police Meet with Hotels to Prevent Prostitution and Human Trafficking
BURLINGTON — Chief Michael Kent reports that detectives from the Burlington Police Department recently met with managers and employees from all six hotels in town to discuss issues in the hospitality industry that affect law enforcement, especially the problems of prostitution and human trafficking.
Over the course of the past two years, Burlington detectives have been engaged with the leadership teams in Burlington’s hotel industry, and have set goals to promote healthy business while eliminating sex crime and quality of life concerns in the community.
“Prostitution is not a victimless crime,” Chief Kent said. “More often than not, listings that have historically appeared on websites like Craigslist and Backpage are advertising victims of human trafficking. I applaud our hotel industry in Burlington for working with the police department to address these issues.”
At a Jan. 11 meeting at Grand View Farm, detectives shared a presentation with employees that they previously made at a large conference in Boston for the Human Trafficking Cities Empowered Against Sexual Exploitation (CEASE) coalition. The following issues were discussed:
- Hotel managers advised detectives that human trafficking awareness has become part of their training programs.
- Managers were advised to call the police department if they suspect that there is prostitution or possible human trafficking taking place in their hotels.
- Hotels were urged to ‘partner’ with the police department and allow for ‘reverse stings’ to take place. By reducing the demand, you reduce the supply.
- This is important due to the number of robberies, assaults, and even homicides that are taking place in hotels that involve some form of prostitution – prostitutes are getting assaulted and robbed and potential ‘Johns’ are getting assaulted and robbed. In July 2015, a woman was murdered after meeting a man in a hotel in Burlington after she posted an ad on an online classifieds website.
Why this Matters in Burlington
Burlington, with a population of 25,000, is also home to a large and diverse commercial base, with tens of thousands of commuters coming to work here each day. It is also at or near the intersections of three major highways north of Boston and has a large hospitality industry as a result.
The growth of Burlington’s hotel industry — six hotels online and two currently under construction — has spurred economic opportunities for the town and its business base, but with this growth has come an increase in crime.
Recently, there have been several assaults and robberies, two confirmed cases of human trafficking and the discovery of a drug lab in a Burlington hotels.
The strong partnership between Burlington Police and the hotel industry has led to two major sex trafficking cases since 2015 and several sting operations targeting customers of prostitutes, resulting in dozens of arrests. Prior to 2015, Burlington Police had never had a human trafficking report.
Homicides have also gone up. Since 2012 there have been three murders (2012, 2014, 2015) and three attempted murders (2013, 2015, 2016), one of which was at a hotel. As a result, hotel leadership has become a vital partner for law enforcement, as they can take a number of preventative measures to help prevent quality of life crime and violent crime from occurring in the first place.
“It is important to form partnerships with all of the hotels in Burlington so that investigations and operations aimed at reducing and preventing prostitution and human trafficking will take place in the future,” said Burlington Police Detective Lieutenant Steven O’Meara, who led the presentation.
Detective Anne Marie Browne, and Detective Jim Tigges also took part in the presentations at Grand View Farm and CEASE.
A Regional Issue
The CEASE coalition consists of 11 metropolitan areas across the country that are committed to reducing human trafficking and sex crimes. Burlington is part of the Boston region, and Burlington Police Department detectives have special training in human trafficking and sex crime.
During the meeting with the hotel industry, an inspector from the Division of Professional Licensure was also on hand to demonstrate how individuals routinely access popular online websites where hotel prostitution is advertised. According to the Coalition on Human Trafficking, 70-80 percent of all human sex trafficking happens in hotels.
Going forward, the Burlington Police Department will continue planning future operations while working with the local hotels in order to combat human trafficking and sex crime. Burlington Police plan to make these types of meetings a recurring event.