Three St. Louis mothers are developing a website of hotel room photographs that can be accessed by police and the public hoping to track down both victims of sex trafficking — many as young as 13 — and their pimps, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The effort is counting on the millions of people who use hotels nationwide to take digital pictures of their rooms and then share them with the website. The more detailed the better: the bedspread, the accent pillows, the furniture and headboard, the rug pattern and even the view from the window. The website is in initial development and needs about $200,000. When it is ready, images sent by hotel patrons will be cataloged by hotel name, city and date taken and possibly made searchable by room color or other basic decor.
It's part of the Exchange Initiative, a community action group formed by the three women to combat sex trafficking, particularly among minors. One of the women, Kimberly Ritter, said one of the realities of human trafficking is the routine use of hotels by pimps — not just the seedy ones on the side of the road, but national chains with shiny reputations and marble in the lobby. Dean Bryant, agent in charge of the St. Louis FBI office, supports the planned website. With the hotel identified, he said, police can interview cleaning crews to identify the victim and the pimp and potential hours they have operated in the hotel. That can lead to a look at hotel camera footage at particular times for more evidence.