Scottsdale beefs up ways to identify sex trafficking victims through investigative unit, training

Scottsdale is the first city in Arizona to be designated as a Cease City, meaning the city trains employees on how to identify and report cases of human trafficking.

The Scottsdale Police Department has a special unit designated to identify and handle sexual exploitation crimes, and it's relatively new. The sergeant in charge says this problem has been around for so long, but it seems like it's a growing problem because it's become more widely known as of late.

Because Scottsdale draws people in from all over for so many events all year round, it's become somewhat of a hub.

"Sex trafficking is happening out there in front of them, and the only way that we can combat it is by educating everybody out there on it," says Scottsdale Police Sgt. Nicholas Alamshaw with the human exploitation and trafficking unit.

The unit investigates child sex trafficking, adult sex trafficking and internet crimes against children. In order to truly eradicate sexual exploitation, investigators say they need eyes all around the city.

"My unit is 4 detectives and a sergeant. We cannot possibly see everything that's going on out there. So by getting out there, and educating the hotels, restaurants, and other hospitality groups, they will see what's going on, and then they can report back to us on what is occurring," Alamshaw said.

The unit sees these cases on a weekly basis, and they expect an increase anytime the Valley hosts a major event, like the Super Bowl which will be in Glendale in 2023. 

"When you have large events come in, there's more people coming in, which brings in more money, and that brings the demand," Alamshaw explained.

These cases are different from human smuggling crimes, when people are brought across the border. This is a local problem and one that Hotel Valley Ho is trying to stop in its tracks, as well.

"We are a locally owned hotel and one of the things we always try to do is contribute to the positive reputation of Scottsdale," says Ronen Aviram, Vice President and General Manager of Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale.

Since 2020, they've implemented a training program for their employees to identify possible signs of sex trafficking. They are the first "safe certified" hotel in the state.

"If something seems like it's out of place, it probably is," Aviram says.

Signs to look out for are when there's a huge difference in age, people who don't carry their own identification and look to someone else to speak for them.

Human Exploitation and Trafficking Tip Line: