Mayor's Office Press Release
Mayor Turner and City Council Approve Hotel Ordinance to Combat Human Trafficking
April 15, 2020 -- Today, the Houston City Council approved an ordinance requiring hotels to train their employees on human trafficking. The ordinance was considered in light of the current COVID-19 health crisis since more children are out of school and likely spending more time online. Traffickers commonly lure their victims online. Also, with more people furloughed or laid off, there will be a new group of vulnerable people.
Houston is the first major U.S. city to have an anti-human trafficking ordinance and only the second city in the United States after Baltimore.
The ordinance requires hotels to do the following:
- Train all their employees on both sex and labor trafficking
- Certify that the training was conducted to the city's Administration of Regulatory Affairs starting March 31, 2021, and annually thereafter
- Post a city-mandated sign with trafficking indicators and phone numbers for employees to report tips to local law enforcement and the National Human Trafficking Tip Hotline.
The ordinance prohibits retaliation against employees that report tips.
The city will keep a pre-approved list of trainings and has a process in place to approve additional suggested trainings. One such training already on the list is available online for free in 17 languages. The city provided signs for posting will be available for free download in seven languages, including Gujarati.
The ordinance also includes fines and penalties after an initial 30-day period to cure violations. If a hotel is in violation for 60 total days for all four offenses; after the first 30 days, the period to cure is over. For the next 30 days, if they remain in violation for all four offenses, the fines could total $58,400 if ARA/HPD issue citations daily. The fine for the first offense is $100 and $500 for any future offenses; each day will constitute a separate offense.
"The hotel ordinance empowers employees to report potential trafficking; my office stands ready to use every tool available to combat trafficking and ensure that we increase victim identification," said Mayor Sylvester Turner. "Increasing the number of eyes and ears we have is critical when it comes to intervening on behalf of our most vulnerable people and children."
Minal Patel Davis, Special Advisor to the Mayor on Human Trafficking and Jamey Caruthers, Senior Staff Attorney, Children at Risk presented to City Council's Public Safety Committee on April 9; https://houstontx.swagit.com/play/04102020-617.
This ordinance is aligned with the City's Anti-Human Trafficking Strategic Plan, and one of its overall goals is to increase victim identification. The plan has been dubbed the first comprehensive municipal response in the U.S. by Polaris Project and can be found at humantraffickinghouston.org. For more information about this initiative or any of our other initiatives, please contact Minal Patel Davis, Special Advisor to Mayor on Human Trafficking at 832.393.0977 or firstname.lastname@example.org.