Child advocates across Florida applaud the 2019 Florida Legislature for passing significant legislation that aids in 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 Florida cases of human trafficking in 2018, the third-highest in the nation. Sadly, that’s a fraction of the 2,133 calls to the Florida Abuse Hotline reporting human trafficking in 2017-2018, a figure that’s up 147% over the past four years, according to the Florida Statewide Council on Human Trafficking.
This law, which was the last substantive one passed by the Florida Legislature in its recent session, is an aggressive, laudable step in attacking some of Florida’s worst and most vile crimes.
Howard M. Talenfeld, Esq.