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Volunteers Educate On Human Trafficking Before Tri-City Water Follies

Hotel managers and staff may be able to help authorities identify sex traffickers during the annual hydroplane races in the Tri-Cities.

The annual boat races in the Tri-Cities in southeast Washington draw more than 70,000 spectators -- thousands from out of town. It also draws an increase in child prostitution.

The Water Follies hydroplane races keep police busy because of the large crowds. During the races, detectives believe more pimps bring children to the area, even across state lines.

They say hotel managers and their staff could help find them. About 20 trained volunteers are visiting the Tri-Cities’ nearly 50 hotels to educate their staff on what to look for.

Genoa Blankenship of Richland is one of the volunteers. She said even residents and visitors can help sex trafficking victims by being aware.

“There is not a cookie cutter image of who the victim is, who the john is -- and even where the trafficking is happening,” Blankenship said. “It’s happening everywhere.”

Among the things to watch for at hotels include teens with visible bruises and sad faces, young people without luggage, and frequent visitors to one room.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.