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Legislation Aims to Reduce Human Trafficking in Florida

February 22nd, 2019 by Jake Stofan

Human trafficking reportedly generates $32 billion dollars a year worldwide.

The crime is particularly prevalent in Florida.

Earlier this year, Tallahassee mother Celeste Chambers was found guilty and faces life in prison for trafficking her now 18-year-old daughter since she was only two years old.

In the first 6 months of 2018, there were 367 reported cases of human trafficking, giving Florida the third highest number in the nation.

A Legislative push led by Senator Lauren Book to address trafficking in the state is moving, but also faces opposition from some victim advocates.

“We can and we must do more,” said Book.

Book’s bill would create a registry for people who solicit prostitution and those who profit from selling others for sex.

Corporal Alan Wilkett is part of the Tampa Bay Regional Human Trafficking Task Force.

He says registries in other states have reduced the demand for prostitution.

“And reducing demand is critical in order to bring down human trafficking,” said Wilkett.

However, a group representing consensual sex workers says the punishment is too harsh.

“Creating another tool that puts people’s names on a list, just creates another barrier for them once they pay their debt to society,” said Jill McCracken with the Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP).

Christine Hanavan, also with SWOP, argues the Legislation doesn’t allow victims to decide when they’re ready to come forward.

That’s because the bill requires law enforcement and hotel workers undergo training to identify and report trafficking victims.

“A victim could be placed in greater danger by making a report against their will,” said Hanavan.

The hotel industry says the goal isn’t to take power away from victims.

Samantha Padgett with the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association argues it’s a way for the industry to fight back against traffickers.

“We look at this as prevention rather than just helping something after it’s already happened,” said Padgett.

The Legislation would require all hotel workers to receive training within six months of being hired, or by the start of 2021, which ever comes first.

Senator Book was receptive to the concerns brought up in the bill’s most recent committee stop, suggesting the Legislation might see some changes moving forward.

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