‘Sex Trafficking Indicators’: Hysteria, Surveillance and Threats to Fundamental Freedoms

A fine essay co-authored by sex worker rights activist, educator and independent scholar Kerry Porth that I encourage all visitors to read. It discusses the ways in which “sex trafficking” paranoia (and profiteering) has led to ominous partnerships between law enforcement and various hotel chains (such as the Mormon-run Marriott). Hotels and even restaurants have been provided with lists of absurd “trafficking indicators” which, essentially, provide a means to disturb, intimidate, harass and arrest any sex worker — as well as private individuals intending to have a fun sex romp.

2:00 a.m. The phone rang, abruptly awakening me. It was the hotel night clerk calling to tell me that members of the Montréal Police Service were downstairs and wanting to search my room. When I asked why, I was told there was a report of a missing youth being held in the hotel. Knowing I couldn’t refuse without negative consequences, I reluctantly agreed.

This happened to one of us — Kerry Porth, sex worker rights activist, educator and scholar. Along with Genevieve Fuji Johnson — professor of political science at Simon Fraser University and co-author of this article — Kerry was in Montréal to attend the International Conference of Public Policy. Our paper on harm reduction in sex work was well received by a small but interested audience. Until this raid on Kerry’s room, never did it cross our minds that our work would attract the attention of the law.

In May 2019, the Montréal Police Service launched RADAR, an anti-trafficking program that enlists hotel staff and taxi drivers in identifying suspicious activity. RADAR is similar to other initiatives implemented across North America.


For several years, industry associations such as the Ontario Restaurant Hotel and Motel Association and the American Hotel and Lodging Association have been partnering anti-trafficking organizations like Polaris and ECPAT-USA along with police departments. These initiatives include providing hotel employees — from global hotel chains like the Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt and others — with lists of trafficking indicators. Indicators include guests having multiple computers and phones, large amounts of cash, and lots of alcohol, condoms, lube and lingerie. Other signs include: refusing cleaning services; leaving minors in the room; infrequently leaving the room; frequently using the “Do not Disturb” sign; wearing provocative clothing and shoes; taking a lot of toiletries; asking for more towels; staying for long periods with few possessions; and renting more than one room. Wearing large hats and sunglasses is also listed as an indicator. Children’s items and toys are also suspicious.

More at The Conversation

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‘Sex Trafficking Indicators’: Hysteria, Surveillance and Threats to Fundamental Freedoms

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  1. Human Trafficking has become this generations boogie man phrase to replace the previous generations boogie man words like Muslim Terrorists, Serial Killer, Black Panther Party, Commie Spy, and Nazi’s or Nips (in WW2 every Japanese American or German American was looked on with suspicion even if they lived in America all their life),

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