Senator Stern Bill to Modernize Human Trafficking Hotline
Legislation Would Put Hotline Info in Hotels and Allow Victims and Witnesses to Text for Assistance
(Sacramento) – In the wake of a major human trafficking sweep in Los Angelesyielding474 arrests and identifying at least 55 survivors, State Senator Henry Stern introduced legislation supported by a coalition of human trafficking groups, to expand access to hotline services.
Backed by the National Council of Jewish Women CA, the California National Organization for Women, Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), and Hadassah, Senate Bill 225 would add hotels and motels to the list of businesses currently required to post a notice informing the public and victims of human trafficking of hotline numbers they can use to seek help or report unlawful activity. SB 225 also informs the public that they can text the hotline in addition to calling.
“California, and Los Angeles in particular, are on the front lines of the fight against human slavery and trafficking. Thousands suffer in silence, unsure where to turn for help.” remarked Senator Stern. “SB 225 will bring us to parity with states like Illinois and Louisiana where hotels and motels have joined the fight.”
National studies show that trafficking hotlines save lives. A Northeastern University report recently published by the National Institute of Justice found that of all trafficking prevention strategies, the most important provision to increasing arrests was requiring the National hotline number to be posted in public places. Each year, the National Human Trafficking Hotline yields thousands of cases (7,572 cases in 2016 alone) with usage going up consistently each year. California’s diverse and dense population make it especially difficult to identify survivors and bring traffickers to justice.
The signs of trafficking can be difficult to spot and potential witnesses are often hesitant to speak out; traffickers rely on this and employ various means to terrify and manipulate victims against seeking help. In 2013, California enacted one of the first laws (SB 1193) to require certain businesses to publicly post state and national human trafficking hotline numbers for victims and witnesses to call for help. The law targeted some of the most common venues where trafficking occurs: massage parlors, places of transit, etc; but did not include hotels, one of the major venues human traffickers use to exploit their victims.
“CAST strongly supports the updates SB 225 provides to the hotline posting requirement. Our research has shown that Hotline posting is tied to increased investigation and prosecution of human trafficking crimes. Survivors served by CAST have also voiced that access to information through a hotline posting could have made all the difference in finding freedom from their traffickers.” said Kay Buck, CEO and Executive Director of Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST), Los Angeles.
SB 225 was introduced February 2, 2017 and awaits its first committee hearing.