JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Hourly rates at hotels, motels and vacation rentals would be a thing of the past if new legislation moving through the Florida Legislature becomes law.
It’s part of an ongoing effort to crack down on human trafficking in the state, which ranks third in the nation for human trafficking cases.
Philips Highway is a hotbed for cheap motels offering hourly rates.
Melissa Setzer works next to one and says it’s obvious the impact it has on the surrounding area.
“Working girls, with their pimps, I guess. There’s a lot of drugs. You can see a lot of drug activity around the corner. There’s a lot of cars that go in and out. You know in less than five minutes,” said Setzer.
But an end to pay-by-the-hour establishments may soon be on the horizon if a bill moving through the Florida Legislature crosses the finish line.
“Having the girls in there for an hour affects them a lot because they’re being transported more faster,” said Silvia Almond with Save Our Adolescents from Prostitution.
Almond’s organization helps victims of human trafficking and educates the hospitality industry on ways to fight back against the crime.
She said hourly rates harm the victims and make law enforcement’s job more difficult.
“It makes it even harder to find the girls here because it goes from hotel, to hotel, to hotel and the cycle continues like that,” said Almond.
But there are those who believe the issue isn’t paying by the hour, but rather, irresponsible management.
“I feel like the property owner has to be on their Ps & Qs to make sure their property is secure,” said an anonymous neighbor who lives near Peek A Boo Motel on the Northside.
But Setzer is optimistic the proposal would bring immediate change.
“If there’s no establishments that are offering or accepting those kinds of deals, where else are they going to go? So, I think if they make the effort to do that Philips highway all the way down Emerson will probably be a really nice place like the other part past Emerson,” said Setzer.
The legislation would also crack down on johns who solicit prostitution by raising maximum punishment for a first-time offense from a year in jail and a $1,000 fine, to a five-year prison sentence and a $5,000 fine.