State data shows more than 60% of lodging locations not in compliance with state law
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - State law requires hotels, bed and breakfasts, AirBnBs, and any other lodging location in Iowa to train all employees to spot human trafficking. But, our KCRG-TV9 i9 Investigative Team found out through a public records request more than 60% of lodging locations in Iowa aren’t in compliance with the new law.
Hotels that haven’t had all their employees complete the training can’t get any money from a public entity. Those public entities include local governments and schools traveling for sports, academic or musical competitions.
Editor’s Note: We removed the video from the online story because it was showing the list of hotels we received from the Department of Safety rather than those hotels that have or haven’t completed the training.
The Iowa Department of Public Safety has an updated list of hotels that have complied with the law online. The data, which our KCRG-TV9 i9 Investigative Team received, was last updated on January 28, 2022. The deadline to have workers trained was about a month ago on January 1, 2022.
Tish Young, who is the board of directors’ president for Chains Interrupted, a nonprofit trying to stop human trafficking, said the data was disappointing and not surprising since the deadline was in January. She said the training is important because 75% to 90% of human trafficking happens in a hotel or motel.
“If they don’t know what they are looking for, they can’t fix it,” Young said. “They can’t do anything about it if they don’t know that man or woman standing by the doorway at the end of the hallway to let people in isn’t just letting family in, but customers. Most of us wouldn’t notice that.”
Young’s organization has helped some hotels in the Cedar Rapids area receive training, which is also available online in English and Spanish. According to data from the Department of Public Safety, about 35% of hotels in the city of Cedar Rapids are certified and completed the training. A higher percentage of lodging locations are certified in Des Moines, Waterloo, Iowa City, Coralville, and Iowa City. Using the data provided, around 67% of hotels are certified.
The Highlander Hotel in Iowa City received its certification on Tuesday. Its sister hotel, The Grinnell Hotel, earned its certification Monday. Angela Harrington, who owns both independent hotels, said it’s more complex to certify staff with more people and diversity because the only online test was in English.
“I mean you send out an email, somebody clicks on the link, goes through the video, goes through the test it’s done in ten minutes,” Harrington said. “If you actually have to print out a physical piece of paper, and then sit down with someone and wait for their shift, maybe there only on the schedule for two weeks, it just takes time.”
Katie Shuford, who is a spokesperson for IHG Hotels, said in a written statement all of its’ hotels are required to take free anti-human trafficking training. She wrote the training was accepted by the state, but must be reported by individual hotels.
“This IHG training was accepted by the State of Iowa as meeting the state requirement,” she wrote. “The majority of our hotels are independently owned and operated, and therefore, have the responsibility to report to the state that they’ve met these requirements.”
Wyndham and Marriott branded hotels both had a number of hotels that weren’t certified, according to data from the Department of Public Safety. Our i9 Team didn’t hear back from either corporation Hilton also had branded hotels that weren’t certified. A spokesperson said it requires training related to stopping human trafficking, but didn’t note if the training was approved by the state.
Joesph Brown, who is the interim superintendent for the Clear Creek Amana Community School District, said all the hotels the school district uses are certified. He said school districts would have to stay further away from events if not enough hotel rooms were available.
“If we can’t stay right in downtown Des Moines,” he said. “We’d probably go out towards Mitchelville, or Altoona or someplace else.”
Patrick Waymire, who is the assistant director for the Department of Public Safety, said he doesn’t believe the lack of hotels certified is a sign the incentive needs to be larger. He hopes the hotels voluntarily complete the training to get certified.
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