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Hotels Left Out Of City Human Trafficking Bill, For Now

Lindsey Kilbride

Jacksonville officials are trying to figure out how to enforce a new state law requiring certain businesses to post human-trafficking awareness signs.

Under a proposed bill, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office would issue $500 citations to businesses not in compliance. The state law requires strip clubs and massage parlors to post the signs.

While JSO Undersheriff Pat Ivey said sex trafficking is prevalent in the 153 hotels in Jacksonville, which police could monitor, the five Council members who met Tuesday decided against that idea.

The required sign displays a national human-trafficking hotline and urges victims to contact authorities.  

“If you or someone you know is being forced to engage in an activity and cannot leave-whether it is prostitution, housework, farm work, factory work, retail work, restaurant work, or any other activity- call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 or text INFO or HELP to 233-733 to access help and services. Victims of slavery and human trafficking are protected under United States and Florida law. This notice is posted pursuant to Section 787.29, Florida Statutes, and Section 150.413, Jacksonville Ordinance Code.”

Jacksonville Bar Association human rights committee member James Poindexter said sex trafficking gets a lot of media attention but labor trafficking if often not mentioned.

“(Labor trafficking) deals with people who are either brought here illegally from other countries and forced into slave labor or people here who are from the United States and forced into similar conditions,” he said.

He wants signs posted in more places like farms.

Crystal Freed, of the Northeast Florida Human Trafficking Coalition, agreed. 

She said the state’s law is poorly written because the signs list factory, retail and restaurant work as areas where human trafficking occurs, and signs strip clubs and massage parlors only targets sex trafficking.

The bill's sponsor Tommy Hazouri said he hopes to expand the law in the future.

"As much as I would like to cover the whole city and every different kind of entity in Jacksonville enforcement is going to be the key for the next bill that we come up with,” he said. “I call it 2.0 that doves deeper.”

The bill will be heard in committees next week.

Lindsey Kilbride was WJCT's special projects producer until Aug. 28, 2020. She reported, hosted and produced podcasts like Odd Ball, for which she was honored with a statewide award from the Associated Press, as well as What It's Like. She also produced VOIDCAST, hosted by Void magazine's Matt Shaw, and the ADAPT podcast, hosted by WJCT's Brendan Rivers.