Among the most recent set of measures Governor Rick Scott has approved is a newly signed bill meant to enhance Florida’s anti-human trafficking efforts.
Rep. Ross Spano (R-Dover) is the co-sponsor of the human trafficking awareness signs bill.
“It would require the posting of hotline numbers for victims at various public facilities, rest areas, rail stations, that kind of thing,” said Spano. “So, obviously that’s important. So, there’s so many different facets of the trafficking battle. You come at it from so many different angles. This is one angle. It’s an important angle. And, something we’ve never done.”
The new law would not just allow the signs to be posted in rest areas, weigh stations, and service plazas, it would also require the signs to be posted in emergency rooms, strip clubs, and certain massage establishments.
Spano says posting these signs is important because victims sometimes don’t know there are people that can and want to help.
“We want to make sure they know that there is help, that there is a number they can call, that there is somebody who’s willing to find them, to help them, get them back on their feet to rehabilitate them, and we do care about them and we want to aggressively protect them. And, the idea being we put them in some of the places that these folks might frequent and they’ll have an opportunity to see them and make a call and get the help that they need,” added Spano.
And, Terry Coonan agrees. He’s the Executive Director of Florida State University’s Center for the Advancement of Human Rights.
“You know, this is a really important step for Florida to have taken,” said Coonan.
He says he’s been following the anti-human trafficking legislation in the Florida Legislature. And, Coonan adds requiring the signs to be posted in multiple areas also benefits victims by making more people aware of human trafficking—often called modern-day slavery.
“The really important step that Florida has taken now—and it puts us very much in the lead with a number of other states—but realizing that we have to get the word out better within our communities,” added Coonan. “It’s our citizens, it’s our people in religious communities, it’s our civic communities, people in our businesses, and really in our metropolitan world that they’re the ones, whether they know it or not, may see trafficking. So, it’s really important to getting that word out.”
The new law takes effect next year. Meanwhile, the Governor has also recently approved a measure cracking down on the solicitation for prostitution—a driver of human trafficking in Florida. And, he okayed two public records exemptions protecting the identity and location of human trafficking victims. Those three measures take effect October 1st.
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