NCJW celebrates approval of human trafficking law

On March 1, (from left) State Rep. Cloria Brown and National Council of Jewish Women St. Louis Executive Director Ellen Alper joined Gov. Eric Greitens for the signing of a law requiring certain establishments to display the number for the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

By Eric Berger, Staff Writer

The state of Missouri last week approved legislation championed by the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) that requires certain establishments to display posters with information about the National Human Trafficking Hotline. 

Gov. Eric Greitens approved the legislation March 1. The law requires that by March 1, 2019, places such as airports, train stations and emergency rooms, as well as establishments that have been cited for prostitution, must display posters with the hotline number (1-888-373-7888) and details about how it can help trafficking victims. 

Missouri residents often aren’t aware of the human trafficking that occurs in the state and the dangers associated with prostitution, said Heather Silverman, program director of NCJW St. Louis. 

“People often see prostitution as a victimless crime and don’t realize that people are often enslaved and unable to make that choice for themselves,” said Silverman.

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In Missouri, there were 135 incidents of human trafficking reported to the hotline in 2015, which ranked 17th in the United States, according to the organization’s annual report. 

NCJW started lobbying for the legislation in 2014, according to a news release. State Rep. Cloria Brown, R-St. Louis, agreed to sponsor the bill. She has since taken medical leave and asked Rep. Patricia Pike, R-Adrian, to carry the legislation. Sen. Robert Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, sponsored the bill in the other chamber.

“We have worked for three years to get this bill passed and we’re so excited Missouri is taking this important step to combat human trafficking,” Dianna Fine, NCJW STL Human Trafficking co-chair, stated in the release.

Missouri joins 27 other states in requiring the display of such posters. The signs not only provide hotline information but also “makes people aware” of human trafficking. 

“As Jews, who have a history of being an enslaved people, this really struck us as one (issue) that we couldn’t just let go by,” said Silverman.

At the federal level, the House recently approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, which aims to close a legal loophole that has protected online sex traffickers, according to advocates of the legislation. The bill now moves to the Senate.