A new Senate bill looks to address human trafficking where the crimes often occur: hotels and motels.
Senate Bill 225, introduced earlier this month by Sen. Henry Stern, D-Agoura Hills, would add hotels and motels to the list of businesses that are required to post signs with hotline numbers people can call or text if they suspect human trafficking or need assistance.
Human trafficking involves not only forced prostitution but also forced labor.
Such signs are already required at certain locations, including massage parlors, urgent care facilities, truck stops, bus and rail stations, and adult and sexually-oriented businesses.
Stern said including hotels and motels on that list would “plug a loophole” that’s existed for too long.
“We’ve seen the effectiveness of the hotline as a tool to shine the light on this pox in our society,” Stern said. “What we found is hotels and motels tend to be a major target for perpetrating these crimes of human trafficking. There are all kinds of activities that go on and people don’t say anything, so what we want to do is arm the employees and customers with information so if they see something, they know who to call.”
The hotline numbers are available 24 hours, seven days a week and are accessible in over 160 languages. Callers can leave messages anonymously. If the bill is passed, hotels and motels that do not comply will be fined $500 for the first offense and $1,000 for each subsequent offense.
Stern’s bill taps into the larger problem of tracking illegal activities at private businesses. According to a 2012 study released by the California Department of Justice, human trafficking “can be facilitated by businesses that promote the crime or accept bribes to remain silent.”
According to the study, from Jan. 1, 2007, to Sept. 30, 2012, the California Department of Justice made 441 arrests and 113 convictions for human trafficking in Alameda, Los Angeles, Monterey, Riverside, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Barbara and Santa Clara counties.
Those numbers do not include alternative penal code sections prosecutors use to charge suspects connected to human trafficking. Prosecutors also use pimping and pandering laws, which require proof of fewer legal elements than human trafficking, making the likelihood of conviction greater, according to the study.
In Ventura County, the District Attorney’s Office filed 12 pimping cases from 2012 to 2016. The office filed two cases of human trafficking last year and one in 2015.
In some of those cases, arrests were made after months of investigating human trafficking suspects operating out of hotels and motels. (Read full article here)