Burbank is taking steps against human trafficking after advocacy efforts by the Zonta Club inspired a new policy that passed unanimously at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
The new policy seeks to limit human trafficking crimes at Burbank businesses through training, signage and enforcement.
The city will partner with Zonta for outreach and education. Zonta will work to put together mailers, training resources and required signage. Once mailers are sent out, the city will enforce training and signage compliances, and code enforcement can now issue citations if a business is found to be out of compliance.
“We’re seeing that this issue is expanding in ways that we weren’t expecting. And Burbank, being a city that has trains, that has an airport, that’s very mobile and transit-oriented, we know that human trafficking is happening. Burbank is a great area to hide people,” said Joy Brodt, Zonta Burbank Membership chair, in an interview with the Leader.
Zonta is a women’s activist organization, and the Burbank division has long organized efforts against human trafficking, domestic violence and child marriage — which is still legal in California, where there is no minimum age requirement to be married.
Human trafficking is a broad term that encompasses violating the personal liberty of another person through fear and coercion with the intent to obtain forced labor, often sex work, child labor, unpaid labor and the labor of undocumented individuals.
Human trafficking is not always perpetrated through organized crime but can often be orchestrated on a small scale by businesses or even one’s own family. It is the second largest criminal enterprise in the United States, apart from drug trafficking.
California alone had 2,122 identified victims of human trafficking, the highest of any state, according to a report by the city attorney’s office.
Sex trafficking is the dominant motive of human trafficking, and 28% of victims of this crime are minors, while 84% are female.
Labor trafficking is a different story. Adults accounted for 81% of labor trafficking victims, and the breakdown of men and women trafficked for labor is roughly even, according to Senior Assistant City Attorney Ray Johal. Foreign nationals make up the majority of the victims trafficked for labor.
The state mandates sign posting requirements in English, Spanish and Armenian in businesses and public sites, which would inform victims of trafficking lifelines and educate staff members at those businesses.
The new Burbank policy mirrors a Los Angeles County ordinance, which adds signage and training requirements for businesses where Johal says there are higher instances of trafficking, including restaurants, barbershops, gas stations, shelters and other locations.
“This ordinance sends a clear and strong message to perpetrators that we will not tolerate this crime in our city, and to victims that are adults as well as minors that they have a pathway to freedom,” said Gloria Salas, lieutenant governor of Zonta Club of Burbank.
First published in the February 3 print issue of the Burbank Leader.