The City Council passed a law Wednesday that would fine and revoke the licenses of taxi and livery car drivers if they are convicted of committing a sex trafficking crime.
Drivers for hire will be fined $10,000 under the new law, which will go into effect later this year.
"What they're doing is driving victims from customer to customer, directing victims what to do with each customer and at the end of the evening, confiscating half the victim's earnings," said Attorney Dorchen Leidholdt of Sanctuary for Families, a group that assists victims.
But director of Taxi Workers Alliance Bhairavi Desai said its the unauthorized cars — those not licensed by the Taxi and Limousine Commission — that are to blame.
"To scapegoat us not only maligns drivers but does a disservice to a serious issue," Desai said, adding that cabs are tracked by the TLC making it highly unlikely that drivers would be involved in the sex trade.
The new legislation also requires drivers seeking new licenses or renewals to complete a program that educates them about sex trafficking violations.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn said three airlines — Jet Blue, Delta and American — had agreed to train their employees about how to identify a sex trafficking victim and what to do if one approaches them.
"Our hope here is we'll really establish an airline standard for best practices," said Quinn.