(CNN) — Kimberly Ritter could not believe what she was seeing.
Girls wearing almost nothing at all, suggesting all sorts of sexual acts, listed on page after page of Backpage.com’s escorts section. When she looked closer at the photos, she noticed something eerie.
She could recognize the rooms.
Ritter is a meeting planner at Nix Conference and Meeting Management of St. Louis. She and her co-workers work with 500 hotels around the world and visit about 50 properties annually. She can identify many hotel chains used in escort ads by their comforters, bathroom sinks, air conditioning units and door locks. Sometimes, she can also identify a specific property.
Meet Kimberly Ritter, sex trafficking sleuth….
Training of hotel staff is key, said Michelle Guelbart, project coordinator for ECPAT-USA. Hotel managers may never spot the signs of sex trafficking, but housekeeping and room service employees often know something isn’t right. They’re just not sure what. “Hotel rooms are used as venues for exploitation,” Guelbart said. “A pimp might hold up one or two girls in a room and might run traffic out of a room. They’ll post ads on a website and send a girl to the room next door.”
Red flags to watch for: Someone besides the guest rents a room, checks in without luggage and leaves the hotel. The child left in the room may seem confused about his or her own name; may appear helpless, ashamed, nervous or disoriented; may show signs of abuse such as bruising in various stages of healing; or may have tattoos that reflect money or ownership.
The child usually doesn’t have any spending money or identification; cannot make eye contact; and wears clothes printed with slogans such as “Daddy’s Girl” or inappropriate clothes for the weather. Sometimes, the child will come on to various men during the check-in process.
“We’ve trained them on the red flags, what to look for,” Smart said. “If they see them, they report it to their manager and we would take over from there. The manager can assess and go to the police if need be.”