City Council bill targets human traffickers by holding hotel owners responsible

Pat Loeb
June 04, 2019 - 3:22 pm

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A Philadelphia City Council committee Tuesday advanced a bill that would hold hotels responsible for underage prostitution in their rooms. 

Councilman Curtis Jones is frustrated with one hotel in his district, which is well-known as a haven for prostitution. Police raided it in 2013 and found teenage girls being induced into the trade. 

And yet, it stays open.

"According to the owner, they don't understand there is any wrongdoing or activity there," Jones said.

So when the Law and Government Committee considered a bill, sponsored by Councilman Bill Greenlee, that would force hotel owners to pay attention, Jones voted in favor.

"The wording in the bill is, 'when a reasonable person would suspect something going on,' " Jones added. "They can't just say, 'Well, we didn't know.' "

Related: 3 hotels sued for disregarding alleged sex trafficking in their rooms

The bill would fine anyone who "knowingly or with deliberate indifference permits human trafficking ... on a property" they own. Greenlee said it's not exclusive to hotels, but they are the main target since many are already known as bad actors. 

Three of the more notorious ones — including the one in Jones' district — have been sued civilly by women who were exploited inside the rooms. This bill would add a layer of legal enforcement.

"They're the owners of the building. They should know what's going on in there."