More Businesses Would Promote Human-Trafficking Awareness Under Jacksonville Bill

Jul 2, 2017
Originally published on June 30, 2017 6:00 pm

A Jacksonville City Councilman wants more types of businesses to be required to post human-trafficking awareness signs.

Although a 2015 state law requires the signs in strip clubs and massage parlors, labor trafficking often happens in different types of establishments.  

Under a city ordinance, Jacksonville massage parlors and adult entertainment spots can be fined $500 if they don’t post signs, printed out online, with trafficking awareness information, including the phone number for the National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline: 1 (888) 373-7888. 

After City Council adopted the policy  last year, Councilman Tommy Hazouri has a new bill

“(It) would increase the awareness signage for human trafficking around the city, specifically at businesses that are hotbeds for human trafficking,” he said.

The bill adds hotels and restaurants to the list of establishments required to post the signs under state and city laws.

Northeast Florida attorney Crystal Freed, who almost exclusively represents victims of trafficking, agrees with the expansion.

“I think it’s a move in a positive direction because it’s adding establishments other than the typical venues that you find sex trafficking,” Freed said. 

She said the original city ordinance ignored restaurant and hotel workers, as well as support staff like maintenance workers, who are targets for labor trafficking.

And Freed said she hopes Hazouri’s bill isn’t the end of the conversation because the community needs better education about how to spot trafficking. Much of it happens in home services, like housekeeping or lawn care, she said.  

This March, Jacksonville Sheriff's Office Lt. Kevin Goff told the City Council that labor trafficking is 10 times harder to investigate than sex trafficking.  And though Hazouri is targeting labor trafficking with his hotel signage, Undersheriff Pat Ivey told Council last year that sex trafficking is prevalent in the more than 150 hotels in Jacksonville.

Florida ranks third in the country for the number of human trafficking cases documented by the national resource center database.  Last year, the top referrer of callers to the hotline was a Department of the State “Know Your Rights”  pamphlet given to those who get work visas.

Hazouri says he’s working out some logistics of his bill, like who would be responsible for monitoring restaurants and whether all of them would have to post the signs. He said he’ll soon schedule a workshop with other Council members, the state attorney's office and JSO.

State law already requires the signs be posted in other well-traveled places, including highway rest areas, emergency rooms and airports.

Lindsey Kilbride can be reached at lkilbride@wjct.org, 904-358-6359 or on Twitter at @lindskilbride.   

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