Is this a first for the New York City government?
Earlier today, Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed a bill into law while he was being interviewed live on his weekly radio show.
The bill will impose a fine of up to $10,000 on drivers who are convicted of a felony related to sex trafficking. The cabbies would also lose their Taxi and Limousine Commission licenses. The measure targets drivers who assist sex traffickers by driving women to johns.
Bloomberg had been expected to sign the legislation on Wednesday, but that didn’t happen.
From The New York Times:
His hesitation, which followed several days of chatter about whether the bill might discourage cabbies from picking up women dressed in revealing outfits, prompted a furious reaction from Christine C. Quinn, the City Council speaker, who issued a rebuke, saying it would be “unconscionable” if Mr. Bloomberg did not sign it.
“The more I read it and the more I talked about it, the better I thought your idea is,” Mr. Bloomberg said to the bill’s sponsor, Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras, who joined him on the show by telephone.
“I’m very happy this is finally happening today,” Ms. Ferreras said.
Proponents of the measure say some drivers play an active role in arranging assignations between prostitutes and their clients. In April of this year, a father/son team was arrested for allegedly operating a sex trafficking business in Manhattan, and six cab drivers were also arrested in connection with the business.
Of course, not everyone thinks this is such a good idea.
Some opponents of the bill had said they are worried it could make cabbies afraid to pick up passengers who are provocatively dressed.
Fernando Mateo, head of the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, believes that the bill will endanger the lives of women and drivers. Here’s what he had to say:
“Women that leave a nightclub at four, five or six in the morning and are a little twisted, maybe have had a few drinks, are now going to be exposed to rape, to criminals targeting them because now they have to walk from point A to point B,” Mateo said. “It’s ludicrous.”
“It’s really a travesty, I think, that the mayor, in his heart wants to do the right thing, but here he made a huge mistake.” Mateo told WCBS 880. “This is going to provoke rapes [and] assaults on women that leave nightclubs late at night and that need a cab, need a ride, and the drivers are going to fear the fact that they may be a prostitute and not pick them up.”
The law also includes a requirement that all city-licensed cabdrivers and livery drivers attend a training course aimed at helping them identify the signs of a potential sex-trafficking operation so they can report any suspicions to the authorities.
In case you’re wondering how big this problem is, the statistics are frightening. Worldwide, an estimated 2.5 million people are in forced labor (including sexual exploitation) at any given time as a result of trafficking. Of these, approximately 270,000, or 10.8%, are in industrialized countries.
So what do you think? Is this new law a good idea?
Photo Credit: jeac