Targeting Venues Where Human Trafficking Persists

Acting on a motion by Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Janice Hahn, the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted  to develop a new ordinance that would help victims break free of their bondage, encourage witnesses to intervene, and crack down on perpetrators.

Leaving no stone unturned, the motion also mandated sports and entertainment venues, as well as motels, hotels, inns, massage parlors, and other establishments to post notices with a hotline for reporting human trafficking. Current State law requires such notices only at locations where trafficking is known to occur, such as adult businesses, and at locations where trafficking victims seek assistance, such as hospitals and urgent care centers. However, the law has been inconsistently applied across jurisdictions.

“Organized criminal enterprises have been known to transport victims – many of them underage – to large-scale athletic competitions in order to sell them for sex,” Supervisor Ridley-Thomas said. “With Los Angeles destined to host the Super Bowl in 2022 and the Summer Olympics in 2028, it is not too early to prevent the depraved and often clandestine crime of human trafficking.”

In their motion, Supervisors Ridley-Thomas and Hahn noted that state law allows the County to establish an ordinance that would allow routine inspections of establishments where human trafficking is suspected, and provide outreach and education for victims and witnesses. Such an ordinance could also include fines and penalties for violations, with the revenue going towards supporting victims.

The County has been working with the City of Los Angeles to align legal remedies. Earlier this year, the City approved an ordinance based on a motion by City Council President Nury Martinez to add hotels, motels, and bed and breakfast inns to the list of locations required to post notices informing their patrons about human trafficking hotlines.

Human trafficking, which includes both sex and labor trafficking, remains a significant problem worldwide. Traffickers create a climate of fear to control their victims and lure or coerce people into various forms of work, including domestic, factory, farm, restaurant, and commercial sex. Due to under-reporting, under-identification, and the tactics of violence, stigmatization, and shame utilized by traffickers and predators, accurate and uniform statistics are difficult to compile, and many instances of victimization go undetected.

Over the last several years, Los Angeles County has taken various measures to help victims and survivors, providing them with a range of services. It also created a First Responder Protocol aimed at preventing them from being re-traumatized when they come into contact with law enforcement. Instead of arresting them for crimes committed by pimps and johns, the Protocol diverts them from incarceration and connects them to safety, stability and hope.

The County has also moved to strengthen enforcement against the perpetrators of modern-day slavery, not only pimps and johns but also unscrupulous businesses and individuals who seek to profit from forced labor.