City Hall, NY-New York City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, Council Members Julissa Ferreras and James Vacca along with elected officials and advocates applauded the passage of legislation to be voted on by the Council to combat sex trafficking in New York City. New York City is a major destination for victims of sex trafficking and will be the first jurisdiction to focus on transporters of trafficking victims. The Council also announced a new collaborative effort with the Delta, Jet Blue and American Airlines to share the latest training information and practices to combat sex trafficking.

The law will discourage drivers from engaging in crimes involving sex trafficking, which entail actively participating in and profiting from coerced prostitution. A driver must first be criminally convicted of one of the enumerated felony crimes under existing penal law before being subject to the civil penalties of this law. Picking up a passenger in the ordinary course of business does not implicate the State penal law and does not trigger the provisions of this bill. The bill only applies if a driver is convicted of a felony related to sex trafficking.

“It is unthinkable that sex trafficking remains a problem in New York City and we’re not going to stand for it,” said Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “The new tough and smart laws we are passing today will impose penalties against anyone convicted of using a NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission licensed car in connection with a sex trafficking-related felony crime, and will raise penalties against anyone operating a vehicle for hire without a TLC license. In addition to this legislation, our collaboration with major airlines will send a message that we won’t tolerate human rights violations in our five boroughs. I want to thank the advocates who worked on this legislation, everyone at Delta and American Airlines for their commitment to this issue, and most importantly the victims who courageously stepped forward to testify at our hearings with horror stories of abuse. We are thankful for their bravery and belief that together we can make New York City a safer place.”

“As the nation’s leading service provider to victims of human trafficking, Safe Horizon applauds this common-sense measure to protect victims of trafficking from further abuse,” said Ariel Zwang, CEO of Safe Horizon. “By cracking down on taxi and car service drivers who profit from the exploitation of vulnerable individuals, Speaker Christine Quinn and her colleagues on the City Council are standing up for women and men in need of immediate assistance and services. We thank the City Council for its leadership on this important issue.”

“We simply cannot have drivers knowingly profiting from the sex trade, willingly taking prostitutes from john to john, job to job,” said Council Member James Vacca, Chair of the Transportation Committee. “These are not drivers who profit from the fare. These are drivers who willingly engage in an illegal activity and earn their living from it. This legislation will impose severe penalties for this behavior. I commend Speaker Quinn, Chair Ferreras, and all of the advocates for their hard work on this bill. ”

“As Chair of the Women’s Issues Committee, I have been aggressively addressing the issue of human trafficking in New York City for some time now and I am happy to see our efforts come to fruition through Intro 725-A,” stated Council Member Julissa Ferreras. “I also hope that the City Council’s passage of the Resolution in support of the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act will send a clear message to state legislators that New York State needs this package of stronger anti-trafficking protections.”

“Sanctuary for Families first learned from our clients about the devious role that drivers play in orchestrating New York City’s sex trafficking industry, effectively operating brothels on wheels. We applaud the New York City Council for passing Introductions 725A and 735A, which will increase penalties for drivers who promote prostitution and increase education for drivers about human trafficking. Sex traffickers have operated with impunity for too long. Sanctuary for Families is proud that New York City is taking this necessary step to hold traffickers accountable and to raise awareness about this horrific issue. Legislators in Albany must now pass the Trafficking Victims Protection and Justice Act, which would further strengthen our laws to protect victims of sex trafficking throughout the State,” said Dorchen Leidholdt, Legal Center Director for Sanctuary for Families.

“The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office supports the passage of this legislation and the City Council’s efforts to combat sex trafficking in New York City,” said DA Cy Vance. “Just two months ago, the Manhattan DA’s Office helped dismantle a sex trafficking operation through a long-term joint investigation, which ultimately resulted in the indictment of six drivers, two of whom held TLC licenses. This legislation would discourage such behavior by establishing a considerable financial penalty and TLC license revocation, as well as an education component to highlight existing laws that prohibit sex trafficking. Indeed these are strong initiatives that will further eradicate odious crimes, and as such, require no less than our undivided attention and utmost support.”

In April, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office aided in a sex trafficking ring bust which ultimately indicted six drivers – of those, two had TLC licenses, one had an expired TLC license, and another had an application pending for a TLC license. Five of the six drivers were charged with promoting prostitution in the third degree.

Two years ago, the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office also indicted several people, including transporters, for their involvement in multi-state sex trafficking ring. The press release announcing the indictment mentions that brothel owners pay livery car drivers to identify and transport Korean prostitutes throughout the United States to New York and elsewhere for illicit sexual activity. A November 2011 media report from described how several people pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court in connection with the prosecution of a sex trafficking ring, including taxi drivers

“I applaud the City Council for creating this critical tool in the fight against those who assist and profit from sex trafficking,” said Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “By first educating drivers about the laws against sex trafficking, and then providing a disincentive to the facilitation of sex trafficking by establishing a substantial financial penalty, this measure is a smart step in the fight to root out these heinous crimes.”

“The Livery Roundtable thanks Speaker Quinn and the New York City Council for reaching out to the industry and working with the Livery Roundtable before instituting the for-hire sex trafficking bill. We believe the bill addresses our comments and concerns, does not finger point, and ensures that only the guilty will be penalized. The Livery Roundtable is committed to making sure that our drivers and base owners are part of the collective effort to stop sex trafficking.”