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Baltimore Takes Stand Against Human Trafficking

P. Kenneth Burns

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake signed Wednesday a bill that protects hotel employees who report suspected human trafficking from retaliation.

The bill was proposed by Councilman Jim Kraft.  It is a companion bill to another bill requiring hotels to train employees on how to spot human trafficking and to certify annually the training has been done.  That bill was also signed by the mayor.

Rawlings-Blake noted that Maryland is a “hot spot” for human trafficking according to the Maryland Human Trafficking Task Force.  Since 2003, 200 human trafficking victims have been identified, 94 traffickers have been arrested and the state has initiated 23 federal cases.

Human trafficking is also the second largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the country, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

The bill originally banned the sale of rooms by the hour.  That drew concerns from the hotel and tourism industry and victim advocates.

Work sessions were held on Kraft’s proposal before hearings were scheduled.  He credited the work sessions for helping to shape the bill.

“When we were able to sit down and address [the hotel and tourism industry’s] concerns, along with the advocates, we found that there was much common ground,” Kraft said.

Both laws go into effect in June.