Training program fights child sex trafficking

February 13, 2013 

PERRY -- Steven Giles has done it and thinks everybody in his position should.

Giles is manager of Perry’s Microtel Inn and Suites just off Interstate 75. He and his staff were the first in Houston County to get Child Safe Zone training in order to recognize the signs a child might be the victim of sex trafficking.

Information and a mini-training session is being offered to other hotel managers in Perry and Warner Robins Feb. 19 and 20. They’ll then have the option to schedule full training like Giles had.

“It’s just the right thing to do,” Giles said. “When I saw the numbers on how many children are victims of this, I was just floored. I thought it happened in Chicago or Los Angeles or even Atlanta, but I never thought it was something we had to think about locally. But as close as we are to Atlanta and with what might be going on with people traveling up and down I-75 -- it’s just good information to have.”

The training is part of a program of the Woman’s Missionary Union/Georgia Baptist Women. They hope to help make the managers and staff at every hotel, motel and campground in Georgia aware of the issue of predators forcing minors into prostitution.

They seek to provide training in how to recognize the warning signs and the simple response when the signs are seen.

“It really is simple and valuable information,” Giles said. “If there’s a possibility we can make a difference in one child’s life if we see the red flags while going about our normal day’s work, then we ought to jump at the chance.”

The Perry Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Warner Robins Convention and Visitors Bureau are sponsoring repeat 45-minute sessions for managers at both ends of Houston County to make the training easily accessible.

Sheila Jones, executive director of the Perry bureau, said there will be a session at Perry’s welcome center at 3 p.m. Feb. 19 and a similar session Feb. 20 at 3 p.m. in Warner Robins at the E.L. Greenway Welcome Center at the old train depot.

She said seating is limited, so organizers ask hotel managers to RSVP by calling 988-8000 in Perry and 922-5100 in Warner Robins.

“I look at this as creating awareness and being proactive so trafficking doesn’t become a problem here,” Jones said. “We want to always be known as the safe community we truly are and not let anything like this get a foothold. We also like to provide educational opportunities for hoteliers and give them a chance to meet together.”

Marsha Priest Buzzell of the Warner Robins bureau said being forewarned about child sex trafficking is vital for those in the hotel industry, and she was grateful to Georgia Baptist Women for making Georgians more aware.

Information from Georgia Baptist Women claims hotels can unknowingly become places where children are forced into prostitution or be layover stops while they are in transit.

Contact Michael W. Pannell at mwpannell@yahoo.com.

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