Bloomberg Delays Signing of Sex Trafficking Bill

Mayor Michael Bloomberg decided to hold off on signing a bill aimed at stopping sex trafficking by strengthening penalties against cabbies who knowingly work with traffickers.

The mayor had been expected to sign the bill on Wednesday, but said he’d take more time to consider it and decide whether to sign by Friday.

Opponents have criticized the bill saying cabbies might be afraid to pick up passengers dressed provocatively.

But City Council Transportation Chairman James Vacca said the bill forbids cabbies from discriminating against riders based on their appearance.

“I challenge anyone in this city who thinks a convicted sex trafficker should be allowed to drive a cab to come forward,” he added.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn also expressed disappointment that the mayor did not sign the bill, saying it “demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of what our bill does: making sure convicted traffickers are punished for their crimes.”

Last week, the mayor expressed some concerns about the bill, saying it’s not always easy or obvious to spot who is a prostitute, as WNYC reported:

“If I were a young lady and I dressed in a sport way … I would not want somebody thinking that I’m a prostitute,” Bloomberg said.

He said he has “no idea” whether he’s in favor, adding, “Whether it’s enforceable or a good idea, I don’t know.”

The bill requires drivers seeking new licenses or renewals to complete a program that educates them about sex trafficking violations.

Supporters of the bill say that using drivers for hire has been an increasing part of sex trafficking, as WNYC previously reported:

“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 it’s the unauthorized cars — those not licensed by the Taxi and Limousine Commission — that are to blame.