Awareness Day on Human Trafficking Tuesday; Chamber Member File Invoice

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TAMPA, FL – As the nation observes National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month in January and Human Trafficking Awareness Day on Tuesday, State Representative Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, joined other heads of state, advocates and survivors at the Florida Capitol on Monday to announce that she has tabled Bill 1439, the Human Trafficking Reduction Act .

This legislation builds on gains made in the last session for prosecutors and trafficking survivors in seeking to ban hourly rates in motels, increase penalties for first-time sex buyers, protect survivors when they demand the expungement of offenses committed under the control of traffickers, and support law enforcement in their efforts to collect and collect data to better deter and detect trafficking across the state.

“The elimination of hourly rate motels in our state is more of a step towards eradicating this crime by closing the doors to places where this illicit activity occurs,” Toledo said. “By raising the bar on penalties associated with buying sex for the first time from a first degree to a third degree felony, we are deterring potential clients from entering this multibillion dollar market. The bill also offers survivors the possibility of requesting the confidential erasure of a criminal record obtained while being trafficked. “

HB 1439 also establishes the University of South Florida-St. Petersburg Trafficking in Persons Risk to Resilience Lab (TIP Lab) as a statewide repository for human trafficking data collected from law enforcement sources across the state.

This multifaceted approach seeks to drive the traffickers out of Florida by stripping them of places to hide, reducing demand, helping victims get back on their feet and not falling back into the way of life while giving back to the forces. order a huge injection of data for evidence-based strategies to better curb and prevent traffic around the state, Toledo said.

Toledo was appointed to the Florida Statewide Council on Human Trafficking in December 2020 by Florida House President Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor. In 2021, she passed a nationally acclaimed human trafficking bill that streamlines lawyer training, helps clear victims’ criminal records, and strengthens the state’s role in prosecution. trafficking cases to assume the role of victim, preventing the victim from reliving the trauma again throughout the trial.

“I said it last year and I’ll say it again, we want to make sure the message is loud and clear that Florida is closed to human trafficking,” she said. “Internal Bill 1439 will give our law enforcement partners the tools they need not only to deter and prevent this horrific crime, but also to have the data they need to best fight trafficking in their part of the state. In addition, we continue to reform the erasure process for survivors so that they can regain their lives and livelihoods, ”said Toledo.

Senator Jennifer Bradley, of R-Fleming Island, introduced a companion bill in the Florida Senate targeting hourly rates at hotels, motels and vacation rentals to deny traffickers sites here in Florida.

“We are not making room in our hotels here in Florida for trafficking. While Florida has certainly made progress in its legislative response to human trafficking in recent years, we are not done yet,” he said. Bradley said. “Florida continues to rank third in the country for human trafficking. Our work in the state legislature will not be finished until we eradicate it from our borders.”

Brent Woody, Senior Counsel and Executive Director of the Justice Restoration Center, represents 150 survivors of human trafficking who seek to clear undeserved criminal records.

“HB 1439 squarely addresses the fact that individuals who buy or attempt to buy women and men for the purpose of prostitution create a demand that fuels the sex trafficking of women, men and children,” he said. -he declares. With the passage of this bill, Florida will be one of the few states to make buying sex for the first time a crime. Additionally, HB 1439 will further protect and empower survivors by requiring court clerks to keep erasure requests confidential. and allowing survivors to erase certain arrest records when the state has dismissed the charge or the survivor has been found not guilty. ”

“Our team is working tirelessly to eradicate this type of criminal activity from our community,” Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said. “It is a sickening practice, and it is a business which, in the most unfortunate way, resembles modern slavery. Throughout the year, we carry out undercover operations in the hope of ‘catching those criminals who prey on the most vulnerable in our society. It’s a non-stop job. I would like to commend Rep. Jackie Toledo for her continued efforts to keep the individuals involved in this practice out of our community as well. loved and dissuade others from coming here to do so. There is a zero tolerance policy for human trafficking in Hillsborough County. ”

In addition to the policy solutions proposed in this bill, USF-St. The Petersburg TIP Lab is one of the world’s leading institutions engaged in the collection and analysis of data on human trafficking. It is led by Dr Joan A. Reid, a leading expert on the subject who has authored two books and over 50 articles on the subject. This initiative will allow law enforcement to benefit from technology and academic analysis of common human trafficking routes in the state, as well as hot spots and warning signs to better predict, respond and finally prevent human trafficking.

“A key demand from those on the front lines of fighting human trafficking in Florida is for reliable and clean data on human trafficking,” said Reid. “Currently, the lack of good data means that we are fighting human trafficking in the dark without any reliable information on where and how to solve the problem. Accurate and comprehensive data from a statewide data repository will help identify crime trends, more specific interdiction strategies, fill knowledge gaps and better position providers to respond to all the survivors’ needs. This bill introduced by Representative Jackie Toledo – who is a true champion of the anti-trafficking movement – will significantly advance anti-trafficking efforts in Florida by letting those on the front lines know. “

“This bill would help law enforcement agencies across the state not only assist victims of human trafficking, but provide them with access to a coordinated set of resources to help apprehend human traffickers. humans, “said Anthony Holloway, head of the St. Petersburg police department. of the Tampa Bay Human Trafficking Task Force said.

Bill 1439 was tabled Monday before the start of the 2022 legislative session in Florida.

Residents can join the fight against human trafficking on Tuesday, January 11 by participating in #WearBlueDay to bring attention to human trafficking and start conversations about the crime.

“Just wear something blue and post a photo of yourself with the hashtag #WearBlueDay on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram,” Toledo said. noting that blue is the international color for human trafficking awareness.

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