Ordinance would require Pinellas strip clubs, massage parlors to post signs for human trafficking victims

Published Sept. 26, 2015

They are grim signs of the times, posted throughout Florida with hopes of reaching human trafficking victims so they know where to turn for help.

Now they could be coming to Pinellas County strip clubs and massage parlors.

In a unanimous vote Thursday, the Pinellas County Commission directed county attorney Jim Bennett to draft a local ordinance requiring informational signs to be posted at adult entertainment businesses and massage parlors. The signs would include directions on how to contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center tip line.

The Florida Legislature passed a law this year requiring the Department of Transportation to display the signs in every rest area, turnpike service plaza, weigh station, primary airport, passenger rail station, and welcome center in the state. Emergency rooms at acute care care hospitals are also required to post the sign.

Commissioner Charlie Justice suggested the county take advantage of a section of the law giving county commissions the power to require the signs at "a strip club or other adult entertainment establishment" and "a business or establishment that offers massage or bodywork services for compensation that is not owned by a health care professional."

Authorities have found human trafficking victims at these types of businesses in Florida, which ranks third in the country for its number of human trafficking cases, Justice said.

"If it reaches one person to get them out of this horrendous situation, it's well worth our time and effort," he said.

Commissioners agreed. The ordinance will come back to the board for a vote at a later date.

Here's the text of the sign included in the state law:

"If you or someone you know is being forced to engage in an activity and cannot leave—whether it is prostitution, housework, farm work, factory work, retail work, restaurant work, or any other activity—call the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888 or text INFO or HELP to 233-733 to access help and services. Victims of slavery and human trafficking are protected under United States and Florida law."