Last week, my team was traveling to New York to teach Anti-Kidnapping and Hostage Survival. We arrived at the hotel, checked in, left our luggage in our rooms, and headed back out to have dinner. When we returned to the hotel, we decided to go looking for the gym. We followed the wall signs on the ground floor and it took us to the swimming pools. One was inside, one was outside. It was a dead end and we did not see a gym. We went out into the courtyard and walked on the sidewalk between the pool and the outer wall of the hotel, passing the windows of the ground floor rooms.
As we passed one particular window, we heard human noises. We paused to listen and see if we could determine what was going on. We could tell that the vocalizations were human and adult and female. Other than that, it was ambiguous. We were trying to decide if this was a woman in the throes of ecstasy or distress. We could not tell until she began to cry out actual words. She was screaming, “Oh, God! Oh, God! Oh, God! Help me! Please stop! Don’t! I can’t take this anymore! Please! Oh, God! No!” and so on. Now we knew she was in trouble. We bolted inside and down the corridor to identify the specific room. It was number 112. My partner peeled off and ran to get the hotel management and I called the police. They got on their way and 5 people came running. I saw my partner coming back to room 112 with 4 other people, 2 men and 2 women. In the ruckus, I still noticed that one of the men peeled off and rushed right past us and around the corner of the corridor. However, he did not go far. He stopped just around the corner and made a phone call as he watched the scene. I noted that he was far enough away to stay out of the mix but close enough to keep an eye on the goings on at room 112.
The 3 from the hotel staff stayed with my team as they knocked on the door and introduced themselves. The wailing quieted down but the woman did not answer the door. From that time on, she was silent. The hotel manager used his key to try to access the room but the doors were locked from the inside. He let himself into room 110 and tried to get in via the connecting door between the rooms. No dice. He looked at me and said, “I’m about to kick down the door.” I reminded him that the police would arrive momentarily. They did. My team waited a discreet distance down the corridor to be available but not in the way. 4 police officers arrived and 2 pounded on the door and identified themselves. One young officer asked who had made the 911 call and came to talk to me about what I witnessed. The woman opened the door for the police and they asked her what was going on. In a torrent of tears and hyperventilation, she tried to assure them that she was fine and all was well and that she did not need them. She was so visibly and audibly upset that they insisted on coming in. She let them in and they remarked that it was swelteringly hot in there. The thermostat was set to 95°F. They opened the windows and turned on the air conditioning. They started their interview and I asked the young officer if we were needed anymore. He had gathered my name and contact information in our interview and he knew how to contact me. He dismissed us and we headed off to our rooms.
The next evening when we returned to the hotel after teaching all day, I stopped by the front desk to inquire about the outcome of the woman’s story. The man at the front desk said that she had been intoxicated and that the police had taken her to the hospital where she spent the night. He also said that there was no one else in the room with her. She had returned to the hotel the next morning, collected her belongings, and checked out. He said that she was very well known by the police. I had been mulling over this situation for 24 hours by this point and it definitely fit the mold of human trafficking perfectly. Here are the facts.
- There was a woman in a hotel room, screaming in distress.
- She would not answer her door until the police arrived and insisted.
- She tried to wave them off and tell them that nothing was wrong. She was afraid to allow the police to get involved.
- A man came running, but not to help. He ducked around a corner and made a phone call as he watched.
- There were a total of 3 possible ways out of that room: the room door, the connecting door, and the ground-floor window. A John could have easily gotten away unseen.
- She was alone when the police entered.
- She was well known to the police.
- Her room was stiflingly hot.
- She was intoxicated.
- She needed to go the hospital and was kept overnight.
- She moved on the next day.
Here are my suspicions…
- The woman was being trafficked in prostitution.
- She was not trying to attract undue attention.
- She was more afraid of what her pimp would do to her than of the police.
- The man who came running but ducked out of sight was her pimp.
- The John could not risk being seen and left via the connecting room.
- She would not betray her pimp or her John’s whereabouts to the police.
- Police had tried to intervene on her behalf before, likely due to the complaints and reports of third parties.
- She was in the damage group.
- She needed relief from the chronic pain and torture.
- She had been injured and traumatized.
- Her pimp moved her to another location because of police involvement.
I was so saddened by the entire thing but the facet that bothered me most is that 2 PI’s, the hotel staff, and the police tried to help her and would have freed her, but her fear of her pimp held her back and kept her in captivity.