At the urging of Fulton County Commission Chairman Robb Pitts, the Georgia Restaurant Association is asking its members to voluntarily post signs in their businesses that tell victims of human trafficking where to go for help.
Already, the signs are required to be posted in bars, hotels, bus stations, truck stops and other locations, but not in restaurants.
“We want to do our part in making sure individuals know there’s help,” said Karen Bremer, CEO of the restaurant association. “Even if it just protects one person, we’ve done something good for the community.”
The group unveiled the initiative Monday at Chops Lobster Bar, where members of a Fulton County sex trafficking task force and restaurant association members spoke about its usefulness. Dorsey Jones, who was trafficked as a pre-adolescent, and is now part of the task force, said the signs would have made a difference for her.
“I didn’t have a number to call,” she said. “If I’d had a number to call, you can believe I would have called it.”
Pitts has made raising awareness about trafficking a pet project. He has partnered with ad agencies to get free advertising and billboards to raise awareness of the problem. He has also petitioned Patrick O’Neal, the commissioner of the Department of Public Health, to ask that health inspectors check that required signs are posted in bars when they are doing their inspections.
O’Neal said notifying law enforcement if a sign is not posted would be too much work for inspectors, he said, and they aren’t visiting all the establishments where signs are required. Pitts said he would like to continue discussions about how the sign requirement can be enforced.
Adding signs in restaurant bathrooms, he said, increases the awareness of the issue and makes it more likely that victims would see the signs and call for help.
The signs could be especially useful with the Super Bowl coming to Atlanta next year, officials said.
“It’s serious business,” Pitts said. “Reportedly, the Super Bowl is a huge magnet for sex trafficking. That’s why there’s such a sense of urgency now. It gives Atlanta and Fulton County a black eye.”
Staff writer Bo Emerson contributed to this story.