By Rich Figel
Since my Career Changers TV show is part of the 808HALT.com project to combat human trafficking in Hawaii, I've been tracking related State laws that were passed last year. One piece of legislation that received little attention concerns posting trafficking hotline signs in establishments that hold liquor licenses, employ nude dancers or massage therapists -- places that could be fronts for sex trafficking operations. While we fully endorsed making this info available to possible victims who are recruited to work in hostess bars, strip joints and spurious "spas" that offer more than massages, we wondered how and when the law would be implemented.
As it happens, our 808HALT meetings include people from the FBI, Homeland Security, the Coast Guard and community organizations that represent immigrant populations from countries where much of the trafficking originates. So we hear a lot of things through the coconut wireless. One tip we received was that the above "NOTICE TO EMPLOYEES" sign is starting to appear in Honolulu establishments with somewhat shady reputations. It's possible those businesses aren't doing anything illegal, but at least the women who work there now have a contact number to call if they feel they are being exploited.
However, one of the challenges our coalition has faced in getting this kind of info out to trafficking victims is many of them do not speak or read English very well. We've translated many of the 808HALT videos into different languages and have printed materials in multiple languages as well, but getting that info to the people who really need it is difficult. Law enforcement and groups like ours still largely rely on word-of-mouth -- which nowadays includes texting, cell phones and emails. So if you know of anything that seems fishy and could be human trafficking -- laborers, domestic servants, farm workers, exploited children -- please contact us through the www.808HALT.com website.
There is supposedly a $100 per day fine for employers in the establishments targeted by the new law who fail to post the trafficking hotline signs. But it's not clear to me who is actually responsible for putting up the posters, and who will be enforcing the rule. The signs list the Hawaii Department of Labor offices and phone numbers, so maybe it's their jurisdiction. Anyone out there know if police can cite business owners for failure to comply with this new law?
The new April episode of Career Changers TV begins airing Thurs., April 3 at 7:30 PM on OC16 (channel 12/high def 1012). For more details on that, please see my last post by clicking here. You can also view video segments from past and current shows on the CCTV YouTube Channel.