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Charlie Justice spearheads human trafficking awareness sign ordinance for Pinellas

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Human trafficking is a alive and thriving in America.

According to humantrafficking.org, an estimated 14,500 to 17,500 people — primarily women and children — are being trafficked in the U.S. each year.

Florida’s human trafficking statistics aren’t very encouraging either.

“Florida ranks as the third [worst] state in the country for sex trafficking,” said Commissioner Charlie Justice at Thursday’s County Commission meeting.

Justice, citing Pinellas’ recent issues with sex trafficking and human trafficking, made a motion to direct the county attorney to draft an ordinance that allows for the posting of human trafficking awareness signs around pre-established Pinellas County locations.

The signs, which provide a hotline number, will read as follows:

“If you or someone you know is being forced to engage in an activity and cannot leave, whether its prostitution, house work, farm work, factory work, retail work, please call the National Human Trafficking Resource Line.”

The Florida Legislature passed a law this year that allows counties to enforce an ordinance that requires the signs in establishments where sex trafficking and human trafficking is taking place.

“If we have those signs up,” continued Justice, “and it encourages one person to get out of a horrendous situation, it’s well worth our time and effort.”

According to Pinellas County Attorney Jim Bennett, the statute specifically directs the Department of Transportation to put the signs up at rest areas, turnpike service plazas, waste stations, primary airports, passenger rail stations, welcome centers, and emergency rooms. The only two businesses that will be required to post the sign will be strip clubs and massage or body works services that are not otherwise under healthcare professionals.

Commissioners unanimously approved the motion to draw up the ordinance.

Devon Crumpacker is a Tampa Bay based writer and reporter for Extensive Enterprises Media. He primarily covers Pinellas County politics for SaintPetersblog.com, but also makes time to write the occasional bar review for FloridaBarTab.com. He lives in St. Petersburg with his fiance, Sydney. To contact, e-mail devon@floridapolitics.com, or visit his Twitter page @DevonCrumpacker.

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