Florida may create registry for solicitors of prostitution

A new kind of offender registry may soon be available in Florida. The registry would list those convicted of soliciting prostitution.

Both chambers of Florida's legislature passed a bill that creates a so-called "John registry," much like the state's database of sex offenders.

The bill has not yet been laid on the governor's desk for signature, but the plan got immediate backing for those who work with victims of human trafficking.

At the Dream Center in Pinellas County, Pastor Bill Losasso said the registry is a big step in the right direction. His anti-trafficking group has sheltered more than 150 victims, including the women who were rescued from massage parlors in Palm Beach.

"They're going to have to have therapy, they will have to be hidden, they will have to go through years of trauma-informed care," said Losasso of those lured and trapped by traffickers. "I wish everybody in America could see the damage done to these girls."

He also wants America to see the Johns. The name, address, and picture of anyone convicted of soliciting would be on the proposed registry. 

While the bill doesn't require it, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement could put it online too.

"Right now, there is no deterrent [to soliciting sex workers]. If you get caught and it is a misdemeanor solicitation, that is nothing," said Losasso. "If we could at least make it so uncomfortable for the buyers and the sellers, that is at least a start to the deterrent."

Florida, and particularly the Bay Area, have long been known as hubs of sex trafficking and illegal sex work, especially during special events. 

With the Super Bowl and WrestleMania on the horizon, officials want to take a bite out of the dark side of the glitz and glamour.

"All of these events that bring people into Florida, unfortunately also bring criminal activity," said Attorney General Ashley Moody. "That is what we are trying to prevent."

The bill would allow Johns to come off the registry if they don't re-offend after five years. But this proposal, Pastor Losasso says, is a start.

"You are talking about grand theft of a woman's dreams," he said. "You are talking about murder of her hope, and you get a $500 fine for that? That is unspeakable."

Unlike the sex offender registry, the offender would not have to update their information.

Even though the bill does not require the registry to be put online, the registry would still be public record.