The City Attorney’s Office is calling for state legislation that would strengthen regulations of party buses in an effort to crack down on sex trafficking of minors and underage drinking on the buses.
City Attorney Susan Segal provided an overview of the proposed legislation Thursday before the City Council’s Intergovernmental Relations Committee for possible inclusion in the city’s 2016 legislative agenda.
Currently state regulations focus on the condition of the buses and insurance requirements, not on activities that happen on the bus.
Segal said the buses have been identified as places where youth have been recruited for sex trafficking and hot spots for other types of crime. Many of the party buses frequent downtown.
The proposed legislation would strengthen the regulatory authority of the Minnesota Department of Transportation to crack down on party bus operators who allow adult entertainment involving nudity and underage drinking, among other things, to take place. Operators could face fines and lose certificates needed to operate the buses.
“We don’t want to cast all operators in the same light or suggest that underage drinking and sex trafficking is occurring on all party buses,” Segal said. “There is enough bad activity happening however that placing some responsibility on the owner/ operators to know what is happening on their vehicles is needed.”
During the 2015 legislative session, city leaders were successful in pushing for new legislation that makes it a felony to solicit youth for prostitution reasonably believed to be under the age of 18. A number of people around the state have been charged in recent stings as a result of the new law.
“As we’re doing our work on juvenile sex trafficking and trying to keep kids safe in our city, this is another proposal along those lines that we think can make a real difference,” Segal said.