FRANKFORT, Ky. (January 18, 2023) – Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced today that his Office of Trafficking and Abuse Prevention and Prosecution (TAPP) has launched the H.O.P.E. Initiative to combat human trafficking in Kentucky. The initiative pushes back against human trafficking by mobilizing communities and landlords to identify and shutter illicit massage businesses (IMBs) that may be enabling human trafficking.
“The H.O.P.E. Initiative is an effective strategy to help communities and landlords recognize, report, or evict illicit businesses engaging in human trafficking,” said Attorney General Cameron. “According to the latest data from The Network, over the last four years, Kentucky has experienced a seventy-one percent growth rate in illicit massage businesses. We know that human trafficking is happening in our communities, and the H.O.P.E. Initiative has the potential to be a real game changer in our fight against it.”
IMBs masquerade as licensed, reputable massage businesses, but instead of specializing in massage services, these businesses specialize in the exploitation of vulnerable men and women.
Last October, TAPP launched the Human Trafficking Outreach Prevention and Education Initiative, or the H.O.P.E Initiative to make Kentucky an inoperable environment for businesses that engage in human trafficking. This initiative is believed to be the first in Kentucky to engage landlords in the fight against human trafficking.
Since launching the initiative, TAPP has contacted landlords in Bullitt, Fayette, Hardin, and Laurel Counties to notify them of suspected human trafficking happening on their property. This high-impact effort is designed to decrease the number of IMBs across the Commonwealth. Since October, more than half of the landlords contacted through this effort have terminated or declined to renew leases with these alleged illicit businesses.
In addition to the landlord engagement component of the H.O.P.E. Initiative, TAPP has also partnered with anti-human trafficking organizations to provide training to aid community members in recognizing and reporting businesses that may be engaging in human trafficking.
“Creating an inhospitable environment for businesses that engage in human trafficking is an important part of our work to end human trafficking in the Commonwealth,” said TAPP Executive Director Heather Wagers. “Sadly, the illicit massage industry is one of the fastest growing human trafficking industries in the country, and we hope this initiative will help change that.”
Kentuckians who suspect human trafficking is occurring in their community should report it immediately to local law enforcement. Landlords who have been contacted by the Office of the Attorney General regarding suspected human trafficking can contact TAPP by calling the H.O.P.E. Initiative Hotline at 1-833-991-HOPE (4673).
To learn more about the H.O.P.E. Initiative, visit YourEyesSaveLives.ky.gov/HOPEInitiative.