City Council adds education and mandatory booking policy for sex trafficking suspects

Councilman Nowakowski (center) along with councilwomen Williams (left) and Pastor (right) discuss the issues regarding Super Bowl Safety with Phoenix citizens. (Nikiana Medansky/DD)
The Phoenix City Council voted on Wednesday to change human trafficking policy. Deputy City Manager Deanna Jonovich said the Human Trafficking Task Force will follow a new, two-tiered approach. (Nikiana Medansky/DD)

In an attempt to make the Super Bowl period safer, Phoenix City Council voted to change the booking procedures for human trafficking suspects and adjustments to the city’s Human Trafficking Task Force on Wednesday.

The changes amended Phoenix City Code 23-52 to include an “educational component” for suspects sentenced for soliciting or hiring a prostitute. The changes also called for the city to develop a policy for mandatory booking for all individuals arrested under this ordinance.

Deputy City Manager Deanna Jonovich said the new two-tiered approach of the task force consists of four areas that include community awareness and outreach, training, law enforcement and victim services.

“We wish to educate individuals on the ramifications of their actions and impact it has on the community, as well as a way to send a message that this is not tolerable in our community,” Jonovich said.

It was previously up to the individual police officer to determine whether individuals are arrested or instead issued a citation.

“We are hoping that we begin to see a change in behavior as a result of the new polices,” said Jim Waring, vice mayor and co-chair of the task force. “More importantly, we intend to make Phoenix a safer place, because it is not something that only happens during a large event like the Super Bowl. It is a daily activity and it is time for the rest of us to put our feet down and say no more.”

The changes to booking procedures will lead to increased costs for the city, according to a city report on the ordinance change.

In 2013, Phoenix police booked 22 people on prostitution-related charges that cost the city more than $6,100, and the report estimated that booking 150 people would increase costs to $42,000.

A StreetLightUSA spokeswoman spoke during the meeting and said her organization was preparing for an increase in victims because of the Super Bowl.

Glendale-based StreetLightUSA is the largest facility that serves young adolescent girls 11-17 years old who have been sexually traumatized and specializes in sex trafficking.

The representative said she wants to make it clear that sex trafficking is not just an issue overseas, but also here in Arizona.

A representative from the Arizona League to End Regional Trafficking said the group approves of the changes.

The Human Trafficking Task Force plans to continue being a resource for not only the city of Phoenix, but for other cities in Arizona and around the country.

“Human trafficking is just is not acceptable,” Waring said, “We are going to make sure that our efforts don’t stop. It is disgusting, it is intolerant so we shouldn’t tolerate it here in Phoenix. We plan on the Task Force really change peoples’ lives.”

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