The yellow cab is an iconic image associated with New York City. They are also a fixture of everyday life for those living, working, or traveling to Manhattan. I know that when I was growing up there, I was either looking at one, riding in one, or avoiding being hit by one.
They are so much a part of the culture of New York that they may just be the best untapped resource when it comes to bystander intervention.
On June 22, New York City Mayor Bloomberg signed City Council bill that will levy a fine on cab drivers convicted of a sex trafficking crime. Drivers won’t be asked to determine whether or not their passengers are prostitutes or those hiring prostitutes, but will be charged if they “knowingly engaging in a sex trafficking operation.”
The law also includes a requirement that all city-licensed cabdrivers and livery drivers attend a training course intended to help them identify the signs of a potential sex-trafficking operation so they can report any suspicions to the authorities. (From the New York Times)
What is the impetus of this policy?
[In] April, prosecutors broke up what they said was one of the first sex trafficking rings run largely by livery drivers, six of whom were indicted on charges of helping a father-son team traffic prostitutes between Pennsylvania and Manhattan. The drivers were accused of ferrying the women to upscale hotels and clubs to solicit clients, telling the women about clients’ sexual preferences, and taking a cut of the profits. The women, whom the operation’s leaders tattooed with their street names and a bar code, were allowed to keep a few dollars each night to buy food and other necessities, according to prosecutors. (via New York Times)
There are multiple issues to consider when looking at a policy like this. Who will be providing the training to the cab drivers, and who will be providing the ongoing trainings and technical assistance for cab drivers as they encounter questions in the field? Will cab drivers, even though it is illegal to discriminate against a potential passenger, hesitate to pick up young women for fear that they are trafficking victims? How will this process be monitored?
When there are multiple issues, there are multiple opportunities. This might be a time for bystander advocacy groups, sex trafficking and human trafficking groups, rape crisis centers, and other advocates to work together to curb violence and sexual assault in their community.
What do you think about the new city council regulation?