RECENTLY, I co-sponsored two bills in City Council with my friend and colleague Blondell Reynolds-Brown that would ban hotels and motels in Philadelphia from renting rooms by the hour. The thought of one-hour motel-room liaisons may conjure up risque thoughts and illicit a snicker, but I assure you this is no laughing matter.

The bills are designed to combat the under-the-radar but growing problem of sex trafficking. Sex trafficking is a form of modern slavery that exists everywhere in the world, including right here in Philadelphia. Sex traffickers use violence, threats, lies and other forms of coercion to force people - usually young women - into commercial sex acts against their will. The Daily News is to be commended for previously shining a bright light on this shadowy criminal enterprise.

The data on human sex trafficking are sobering. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, approximately 300,000 children are at risk of being prostituted in the U.S. every year, and the average age of entry into prostitution for a child victim in this country is just 13-14 years old. You also may be shocked to know that, according to the DOJ., Philadelphia is ranked among the Top 20 sex-trafficking cities in the country.

Sex traffickers rely heavily on hotels and motels to sustain their operations, thus my impetus to make one-hour room rentals illegal in Philadelphia. Human sex trafficking operations that are uncovered in motels or hotels in the city can have serious consequences for the owners of the establishments, as well, such as damage to the businesses' reputations and lost profits.

The first of the two bills I co-sponsored would add requirements that motels and hotels train their employees in identifying human-trafficking activities and recognizing its victims. Employees would be required to view a training video developed or approved by the Police Department, in collaboration with other city departments. Motel and hotels would be required to provide certification to the Police Department that its employees were trained in order to receive annual renewals of their Housing Inspection Licenses.

The second bill would add provisions that motels and hotels be required to maintain a room registry of all patrons and would be prohibited from renting any rooms at an hourly rate. The daily rate would have to be charged for all rooms.

Currently, wherever human trafficking operations are uncovered, efforts are first and rightly focused on police intervention and criminal prosecution. We as a society must also provide support for services that assist the victims in their recovery. But what's needed most is prevention - limiting access to the places where trafficking occurs, and training motel and hotel personnel to identify sex trafficking, recognize the victims and alert law enforcement. These two inter-linked bills are intervention measures that will help to bring an end to this insidious form of human slavery in Philadelphia.

Ed Neilson

City Councilman-At-Large

Stepping on the gas

Darrell Clarke - it is so nice that you are "finally" speaking out regarding the sale of PGW. I did not hear an alternative, but maybe I missed it. Actually, I am still waiting to hear from Mr. Kenney regarding PGW. He was on City Council when they stone-walled Mayor Nutter regarding the sale, but, again, I may have missed his alternative. I may not always agree with Mr. Nutter, but, at least he offers solutions.

Why do we, as Philadelphia citizens, allow Mr. Clarke to do as he pleases, when he pleases, without challenging him, and why does City Council sit there with tape across their ears and their mouths? And now, we are going to quietly allow them to postpone hearings on taxes until after the elections to fortify their do-nothing positions? It is about time that we demand a City Council that attempts to work with the mayor for solutions and not let them continue to do nothing.

And, how is Mr. Kenney going to deal with City Council?

Carol L. Smith


Feeling blue

When I was the recruit lieutenant at the Philadelphia Police Academy (1995-97), on the first day of recruit orientation I would tell the recruits: You are not black, white, Hispanic or Asian. From this day forward you are blue. The hoodlums who you may confront, who may be armed, see only that blue uniform, not race or gender. Sadly, with the shooting death of Officer Robert Wilson III that statement still holds true, almost two decades later.

Carmen J. Vuotto, Sr.

Philadelphia Police Department

Captain (RET.)

Wow, reading about this young cop and watching the news has truly put a dent in my heart. Cops are human, too. Why, why this young man with two children? Some folks have respect for nobody. They lie, cheat and always blame our police force when they are shot before the policeman gets shot. They have a life to live like we do. Who's going to protect the city when all you hear is about cops getting shot everywhere? When is it going to stop?

They give criminals free rein. Their police record doesn't mean anything. They do the time for the same convictions over and over. Do time, come out and do the same thing over and over again. Rape, robbery, murder. What happened to automatic five years for possession of a gun? Our laws need to change. These criminals need stiffer penalties. I'm sick of it. God knows, it has to end.

Geraldine Kittrell