Hotel workers used by police to catch guests buying sex
With the help of tips from hotel staff in northern Sweden, police there are now hoping to catch sex buyers in the act, according to Swedish Radio P4 Norrbotten.
Hotels in Norrbotten are being used as a base for prostitution, possibly connected to human trafficking, and staff at several hotels in the northern city of Luleå have been trained on how to recognize signs of sex trade.
Patrik Ström, deputy chief of investigations with the police in Luleå-Boden, says that if they suspect this kind of crime, they can do a raid, going into the room to catch lawbreakers in the act.
The method of catching buyers of sex in the act at hotels, as a way to fight prostitution and human trafficking, was developed by police working with that issue in Stockholm, and they have been the ones to train hotel staff in Luleå.
Eive Stenvall, director of Quality hotel, says that this has led to the staff being more alert, so they can tip off the police if something suspicious is happening.
Stenvall says some of the things they've learned to look out for are whether a room is getting an unusual amount of traffic, if a guest does not want the room to be cleaned, and if a guest doesn't want anybody going in the room.
Per-Olov Anderson, with the police, says that they regularly get tips about sex trade happening in Norrbotten, even though there is no certain information about just how widespread it is.
"It happens several times a year," he says. "The last years, it's primarily come from hotels who get in touch with us, but even property owners or residents in multi-family homes, have gotten in touch."
In general, hotels don't want to admit if they suspect prostitution is going on within their walls, but there are exceptions.
The CEO of a hotel chain wrote in a mail to Swedish Radio that they have noticed this activity to a certain extent, and have gotten in touch with the police in those cases.
Tips that come from the hotels sometimes have to do with women coming from outside of Europe.
"As soon as we start to notice that there are people who come from outside Europe, we can imagine that there is some type of organized activity behind it, and then we're maybe talking about human trafficking," says Andersson.
It's very unusual that police in Norrbotten succeed in convicting someone from sex trade crimes, but Andersson hopes that collaborating with the hotels will lead to more arrests and prosecutions.
He says one hope is that with the help of tips, the police will be able to react faster and catch people in time.
In Sweden, it is illegal to buy sex, but not to sell it.