Last year in New Jersey there were 224 reported cases of human trafficking, and a total of 433 phone calls, texts, emails and chats about the issue were received. But experts believe the actual number of human traffic cases in the Garden State is much higher.

Polaris, a nonprofit organization that works to combat human trafficking, reports a total of 4,199 human trafficking contacts have been made in about 1,261 cases involving more than 2,000 victims in New Jersey since 2007.

In response, a new campaign has been launched by the American Hotel and Lodging Association to stop this activity.

“The way we plan on doing that is to make sure that every hotel employee is trained to be aware of human trafficking, look out for the signs of human trafficking and then know what to do if in fact they see those signs,” said Chip Rogers, the president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association.

There are 1,045 hotel properties in New Jersey and 182,000 people are employed by the hotel industry in the Garden State.

“This is going to be a long-term effort, and a pretty significant effort to get every hotel employee trained. But we know it’s the right thing to do," Rodgers said.

Most human trafficking cases in New Jersey involve prostitution, but Rodgers pointed out this is not always the case.

“Labor trafficking is a very serious problem and it’s happening not just in this country but around the world.”

According to Polaris, an estimated 40 million people are the victims of human trafficking every year around the world. It is estimated that human trafficking is a $150 billion global criminal enterprise.

New Jersey already has a law that took effect last year that requires all hotel employees to watch an eight-minute video, in English or Spanish, about human trafficking. Rogers applauded this effort but he stressed expanded training can be beneficial.

He said hotel employees should share any information they become aware of with the appropriate personnel who are trained to contact the right law enforcement agency.

He added if hotel guests see what appears to be a human trafficking they should also speak up.

“If we’re going to stop human trafficking it’s going to have to be a collective effort. It’s going to be a societal effort. It’s not just going to be hotels, but we certainly want to do our part," Rogers said.

The National Human Trafficking Hotline is 1-888-373-7888.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com