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Albany bill hits prostitution

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State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) announced last Thursday that he had introduced a bill that would require cab drivers to be educated in how to recognize if human trafficking is going on during their run. The bill is meant to curb drivers’ participation in the illegal practice of delivering a prostitute to a client.

“The hard reality is there’s nothing glamorous about prostituti­on,” Peralta said at a news conference last Thursday.

This is the second bill aimed at curbing prostitution, an ongoing problem on Roosevelt Avenue, that Peralta has introduced into the Senate this year. Peralta said this second bill was inspired by his first, which is aimed at punishing those who hand out “chica chica” cards, business-sized cards which advertise prostitutes with pictures of scantily clad or naked women. Many of these cards also advertise the “free delivery” of prostitutes, usually carried out by cab drivers.

Peralta said most taxi and livery drivers are hard workers who do not participate in sex trafficking, but some — most of whom work privately without a license — do. In many cases, these cab drivers pick up johns around midtown Manhattan and drop them off at places in Flushing, Jackson Heights or Corona with prostitutes. Sometimes the johns also call to have women brought to them, usually in cabs.

The senator’s bill requires drivers to take classes about how sex trafficking is a crime and how to recognize when a woman is being victimized. The city Taxi & Limousine Commission will work out this curriculum with advocates for trafficked women.

“They really don’t understand the issue of the illegality of this,” said Felix Suero, president of the Corona-based Dominicana Radio Dispatch Inc., who attended the news conference.

Allan Fromberg, spokesman for TLC Commissioner David Yassky, said the commissioner has not yet seen the bill and cannot comment.

“They need to know what to look for and they need to know this is a crime that they’re dealing with,” said Faith Huckel, executive director and co-founder of Restore NYC, a nonprofit that assists trafficked women, who was also at the announcement.

Huckel said New York City is one of the major entry points for trafficking women into America. She said most of the women her organization helps speak Korean, Mandarin or Mexican Spanish. While the amount of prostitution that goes on locally is difficult to track, she said an additional 17,000 men, women and children are trafficked into America in a year.

“Sex trafficking is a reality in our city,” Huckel said. “It’s not just a reality. It’s something that’s running rampant.”

Peralta said the anti-“chica chica” bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights), is being worked on. The senator has also co-sponsored a bill to increase punishments for those who purchase child prostitutes.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Updated 10:52 am, October 12, 2011
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