Child advocates across Florida applaud the 2019 Florida Legislature for passing significant laws that aid the fight to prevent human trafficking. Sponsored by Sen. Lauren Book and Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, the law would shine a bright light on the places where these heinous crimes are committed — many of which, sadly, could have been prevented.
This anti-human trafficking bill, HB 851, requires educating the employees of hotels, massage parlors and adult theaters on how to spot the signs of trafficking and common practices. It calls for those employees who see evidence of these crimes to report suspicious activity to the confidential National Human Trafficking Hotline (888-373-7888).
The law also reclassifies strip clubs that employ underage victims who commonly come from the foster care system and overseas, only to become trapped by trafficking rings — as adult theaters. Additionally, the law requires that law enforcement personnel be educated on trafficking to improve enforcement.
Further, it would create a Prostitution Public Database of those convicted of soliciting prostitution in Florida and a fund to support the enforcement through steep fines, and to help the victims.
The bill comes none too soon for would-be victims. The National Human Trafficking Hotline reported 367 cases of human trafficking in Florida in 2018, the third highest in the nation. Sadly, that’s a fraction of the 2,133 calls to the Florida Abuse Hotline reporting trafficking in 2017-2018, a figure that’s up 147 percent over the past four years, according to the Florida Statewide Council on Human Trafficking.
This law, which was the last substantive bill passed by the Legislature in its recent session, is an laudable, aggressive step in attacking some of Florida’s most vile crimes.
Howard M. Talenfeld,
Florida’s Children First,