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Santa Monica Council Battles Human Trafficking, Supports Cheap Student Bus Passes
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Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

September 15, 2016 -- The Santa Monica City Council tackled the hot-button issues of human trafficking and environmental/traffic pollution with the passage of two measures at its meeting on Tuesday.

Council members approved a resolution supporting efforts of the City Attorney’s Office to raise awareness of human trafficking.

The council also voted for City staff to create a proposal for a two-year pilot program that would provide “extremely reduced-cost” bus passes for local youth.

Both measures passed unanimously.

The human trafficking measure supports the outreach program of the City Attorney’s Office that will include sending posters to local businesses featuring hotline numbers that victims and others can call to report the crime.

The resolution was crafted with help of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW). Several of the organization’s members addressed the council.

“Are people being trafficked here in Santa Monica?” asked Nancy Clest, an NCJW volunteer who said she has lived in the city for 25 years. “I don’t know, and I hope not. But human trafficking victims are often hidden in plain sight."

She added, "Since human trafficking is a worldwide problem and the Los Angeles area is one of the largest trafficking hubs in our country, I want to ensure there is no trafficking or slavery in our community.”

A Senate bill that was approved into law three years ago requires certain types of businesses and places (sexual oriented businesses, bars and bus stops, among others) to post the information notices featuring the hotline number.

The City Attorney’s Office has implemented an enforcement plan for the law, according to the council’s resolution.

“Los Angeles County is one of the top three points of entry in the entire country for human trafficking,” Council member Kevin McKeown, who sponsored the item, said in a statement released after the meeting.

“For trafficking’s victims, fearful and isolated, a simple poster with a hotline phone can be a lifeline."

He added, "Our requiring posting in certain Santa Monica businesses doesn’t mean that those particular businesses are part of the problem. It means that Santa Monica is committed to being part of the solution.”

McKeown also was the sponsor of the bus pass proposal, which aims to encourage people to use cars less for environmental and traffic-reducing reasons, among others (“Low Cost Bus Passes Proposed for Santa Monica Students,” September 10, 2016).

McKeown's proposal specifically addressed students in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. Councilmember Gleam Davis said that private school students should be included as well.

Davis also suggested the City do “education outreach” to encourage more youth bus ridership.

“I have spoken to many parents who say they would not let their daughter ride the bus because they felt it would be unsafe to do so,” Davis said. “But they feel it’s unsafe not on any facts, but just they feel it.”

Council members are also said the City would need student ambassadors to promote bus ridership as the “cool” thing to do. McKeown said the Samohi Solar Alliance could take that on.

“I can see it being made very uncool to drive or let you parents drive you to school given what students in high school today know about the future of our planet,” McKeown said.

He added, “I can see this as something where students will go home and say, ‘mom and dad, please buy me the bus pass; I’m so embarrassed showing up in a car.’ That’s the future I’m hoping for.”

McKeown has said he would like to see the monthly passes costing under $20. They are currently $28 for young people. Staff will return to the council with recommendations soon.


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