Kimberly Ritter, a senior account manager at St. Louis-based Nix Conference & Meeting Management, has been honored by the FBI for her efforts to stop child sex trafficking, Nix reported this week.
Ritter — one of Successful Meetings' 25 most influential people
in the meetings industry in 2012 — was presented with the 2012 Director's Community Leadership Award (DCLA), granted every year by each of the FBI's 56 field offices. Given to an individual or organization, the award honors efforts in combating crime, terrorism, drugs and violence in America.
According to Nix, Ritter first became aware of child sex trafficking four years ago when a client asked her whether the hotel she was booking on their behalf had a policy on human trafficking.
"This was a request and an issue we had not heard about before," said Jane Quinn, one of the owners of Nix. "As we researched it, we realized we could have a real impact on this crisis."
Since then, Nix — which noticed it was possible to identify many hotel chains by the room décor in the background of the photos in escort service ads — has been addressing the issue of child sex trafficking at conferences and in meetings with hotel general managers. Earlier this year, it worked with End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking (ECPAT-USA) to create and sign the first-ever Meeting Planners Code of Conduct, which commits the companies that sign it to address the issue at every hotel where they do business by establishing an internal social responsibility policy, implementing an action plan with objectives and timeframes, and reporting to ECPAT annually.
"The buzz around this issue has been phenomenal," said Molly Hackett, co-owner of Nix along with Quinn. "We've fielded dozens of calls and emails on child sex trafficking from the media, law enforcement, the U.S. attorney's office, our own clients, hotel management, religious organizations and other meeting planners."
Concluded Dean C. Bryant, special agent in charge of the FBI St. Louis Division, "Raising awareness goes a long way to preventing sex trafficking or any crime. By challenging their counterparts to raise awareness among the tourism industry, Ms. Ritter and Nix are creating a force multiplier that could eventually have a nationwide impact."