TAMPA, FL, November 21, 2022: The state of Florida, led by Governor Ron DeSantis, failed to issue fines to 6,669 hotels that had received a collective 14,279 citations for human trafficking violations since 2019, according to an investigative report by the Sun Sentinel.
Many of these cases would be obvious to hotel staff. One human trafficking victim who had been sold for sex out of a hotel told the Sentinel, “We only paid in cash. When we would leave together, I was afraid and very submissive. The cleaning staff were never allowed in the room for the over eight weeks that my children and I were trapped in this room. My children, at 1 and 4, were never allowed to play outside. No one said anything, no one did anything.”
A 2019 Florida law was meant to prevent hotels from becoming breeding grounds for human trafficking cases. It required hotels to take steps to educate staff on warning signs and cooperation with the law. Specific requirements included hanging posters with the National Human Trafficking Hotline in English and Spanish; providing annual training on human trafficking for staff; and developing a process for reporting any trafficking incidents or suspects. Violators could face up to $2,000 in fines a day.
But despite the staggering number of citations, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation has not issued a single hotel fine. Instead, they’ve allowed hotels to amend the violations independently within a 90-day grace period.
“Over all, Governor DeSantis has done a great job as the Governor of Florida,” says Kevin Malone, former Los Angeles Dodgers General Manager and Co-Founder and CEO of the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking (USIAHT). “But he has been a disappointment when it comes to human trafficking—especially child sex trafficking. His administration has declined to issue fines after over 14,000 violations of sex trafficking law by Florida hotels and lodging establishments.”
USIAHT, among many other organizations, has worked directly with multiple states in the United States. The state of Florida was the first to aggressively request that the USIAHT help open the first Boys Safe Home in Florida—the first of its kind in the country. Millions of dollars later, the home is now closed due to the state not being able to fill the five available rooms.
“This news report shows the difficulty of regulatory and enforcement measures especially when resources are stretched thin” continues Kevin Malone, CEO of USIAHT. “So, in my view, we need clear guidelines on fines being levied for noncompliance in the intended way and additional measures to hold the non-compliant accountable outside the regulatory framework such as civil cause of action and easy public access to information about those in noncompliance.”
To quote Govenver DeSantis directly: “Florida has zero tolerance for human trafficking and those who allow it to thrive in the shadows.”
USIAHT has just one question: Where’s the zero tolerance?
The U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking (USIAHT) is a nationally recognized not-for-profit organization committed to ending human trafficking in the United States. With offices strategically located in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Tampa, Washington, D.C., and Austin, USIAHT is aggressively focused on reducing the demand for human trafficking through community-based initiatives, trainings, and AI technology. To learn more, visit www.usiaht.org. Interested parties can volunteer as Abolitionists and help voice concern to states that are putting forth laws against human trafficking while failing to enforce them.
About Kids NOT For Sale:
Kids NOT For Sale is the initiative of the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking (USIAHT) to establish Southern Nevada as a Trafficking Free Zone. USIAHT and Kids NOT For Sale both find new and innovative ways to combat the demand for purchased sex from minors, raise awareness to this nationwide epidemic, and provide safe environments for victims — starting with the state of Nevada.