Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book has filed a bill to close a legal loophole in the fight against human trafficking that has allowed hotels and massage establishments to avoid paying fines for repeated failure to post awareness materials and provide trafficking awareness training to employees. SB 692 builds off important work done by Leader Book in 2019 and seeks to ensure repeat offenders who fail to comply with Florida law pay fines as intended to the State’s Direct Support Organization for survivors.
“Florida ranks third in the country for human trafficking and it’s up to each and every one of us to get educated, to say something if we see something, and look out for one another as human beings,” said Leader Book. “Hotel operators must be even more aware and to do their fair share to prevent these horrific crimes. That’s why we are going to make sure no one is able to exploit loopholes in the law to avoid fines that go directly to help victims – it’s shameful, it’s wrong, and we won’t allow it.”
Currently, businesses which violate Book’s 2019 law are provided with education and allowed a 90-day cure period to get into compliance or face fines paid into the State’s Direct Support Organization to help survivors. However, a Sun Sentinel investigation revealed that businesses are exploiting a previously undiscovered loophole in the law which allows repeat offenders the same cure period as first-time offenders. According to Leader Book, SB 692 will close this loophole and allow for only one singular 90-day cure period per business; any subsequent violation will immediately be subject to fines.
“When I was a child suffering in silence, I could never have dreamed to have an advocate like Senator Book,” said human trafficking survivor Savannah Parvu, of Lake County. “I was trafficked out of hotel rooms, men would pay as little as $10 to do whatever they wanted to me. Being a part of the process for change has been an important part of my healing process – I know what happened to me is in the past, but we can prevent it from happening to other people.”
Human trafficking is nothing but modern-day slavery, where victims are trapped by fraud, force, or coercion, forced to work – or be prostituted – for someone else’s financial gain. It continues to be the world’s fastest-growing criminal enterprise, and the second-largest criminal enterprise in America.
Florida is the third highest trafficking destination in the United States, and half of all victims are under the age of 18.