Debate Over How to Stop Sex Trafficking Puts Focus on Car Services

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Several advocates for sex trafficking victims are pushing the City Council for legislation that would penalize livery car drivers for knowingly transporting individuals forced into prostitution.

Lori Cohen and Kathleen Slocum, both senior staff attorneys at the organization Sanctuary for Families, described the role for-hire drivers can play in the sex trafficking industry. They acknowledged that the vast majority of drivers are honest, hardworking individuals. But for those drivers working alongside pimps to ferry victims, Cohen likened their services to "brothels on wheels."

"It is an open secret that delivery has become a preferred method for promoting prostitution in New York City, as seen clearly in the advertisements from this morning's Spanish language newspapers," said Cohen.

At a city council hearing Wednesday, council members also heard a first-hand account of sex trafficking from a victim who was able to get help after more than a year of forced prostitution. The woman, who testified from behind a screen under the name "Sophia," recalled how drivers played an active role in the sex trafficking network and reaped huge profits. She told the packed committee hearing room how drivers shuttled her around the New York area seven days a week, where she was forced to perform sexual acts on 10 to 20 clients per night.

Sophia described how drivers even knew the likes and dislikes of clients.

"Before each stop, the driver would order me how much to charge, whether to use my own condoms and lubricant or the client's, whether to make noise or stay completely quiet during sex," she said.

Council members on the Committee on Women's Issues and the Committee on Transportation introduced two bills aimed at chipping away at the sex trafficking industry. One bill proposes a $10,000 penalty for drivers who knowingly participate in sex trafficking and asks the Taxi and Limousine Commission to institute an education program on sex trafficking for all drivers. The other bill raises penalties for driving an unlicensed vehicle for hire.

David Yassky, commissioner of the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission, said he supports the idea of tougher penalties for unlicensed activity and for those who participate in prostitution. But, he said the education program included in the bill is too costly. He said that, without external funding, the cost would be borne by drivers. The agency suggested creating an information packet or pamphlet that could be distributed to drivers instead.

Other critics of the legislation argue it duplicates state and federal sex trafficking laws already on the books, and unfairly targets cab drivers.




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Comments [3]


@GregoryButler - that is too funny man. You seriously think councilman are trying to keep down the rights of the sex worker? Sex workers barely have any rights or choices. I don't think they'd be in that position if they did. Frankly, it tends to be the politicians you always find out are hiring sex workers cause no one else will have them.

Speaking of which- why are you so hot and bothered about a change in legislation which will give others more rights hmmm?

Dec. 16 2011 01:45 PM
Advocate from New York City

The article and the information used to create and push this bill through stems from testimony of those who were *trafficked* (i.e. force, fraud or corescion was used which resulted in them being used for sex) and from examples given as to how they were closely monitored and controlled as they were taken from client to client.

The # of sex workers who are willingly involved in the industry vs. those were trafficked in the sex industry does not justify this bill being thrown out or your above comment. There are far far more women who need protection, advocacy and help in breaking out of the life than those who need a car service to transport them from job to job. In this case, that majority rules.

This is the same thought process behind educating nurses and tattoo artists (who often unwittingly brand a trafficked woman as they believe she is in there with her boyfriend & the tat is something she chose) in signs of human trafficking. Knowledge is power against trafficking.

Dec. 16 2011 01:41 PM

What they're REALLY talking about in that bill is punishing sex workers who use car services.

Some escorts use car service drivers as security, to transport them to meet a client and to check to see if the client and the location are safe.

Other escorts use car services to bring their clients to incall locations.

Still other escorts (as well as strippers, pro dommes and other types of sex worker) use car services as a safe way of traveling home at night after a session.

Basically, the councilmen who wrote this bill want to prevent sex workers from traveling to and from work safely and from using car service drivers as security on outcalls.

Of course they wrap it up in the package of "trafficking" because you can use that vague term to justify just about any type of police persecution of sex workers.

Dec. 15 2011 10:23 AM

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