Stacie Rumenap: Working Together to Safeguard Our Children and Neighborhoods
OPINION: In addition to ushering in the holiday season and new faces at Florida’s Capitol, November is Child Safety and Protection Month, which serves as a key reminder of the importance of preserving the safety of our children and communities. Together, with nationwide policy experts, law enforcement officers, community leaders and parents, Stop Child Predators works to drive policy changes in Florida and across the country to combat the sexual exploitation of children.  

Through these collaborative efforts, we have made significant strides in supporting this mission, from championing the passage of Jessica’s Law in 46 states to reforming the Sex Offender Registry and helping protect children from online predators. New leaders will soon be taking office in Florida’s Capitol and communities across the state, and we hope that they make child safety a key priority by advocating for policies that help safeguard families and communities.  

As Florida is one of the country’s leading destinations for tourists, one issue we are advocating for in this state is the protection of safeguards for children and communities amidst the increasing growth of short-term rentals. With the introduction of disruptive technologies like Airbnb that allow individuals to rent apartments and homes, they also introduce unintended consequences that pose dangers to children.  

Short-term rentals have evolved from individual home sharing to commercial interests operating what are essentially hotels in residential communities. And with no real regulations placed on them, home sharing sites have made tools like sex offender lists obsolete by replacing neighbors with a revolving door of strangers. Over the last year, we’ve seen an ongoing stream of stories about illegal hidden cameras, drug trafficking, prostitution and violence in short-term rentals. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune shared the story of an Airbnb guest charged with the attempted sexual assault of a seven-year-old living in the house the family rented. Common-sense regulations on home sharing sites are needed.  

The state of Florida has shown ongoing leadership on child safety issues, from enacting legislation that would serve as the model for Jessica’s Law to the ending the statute of limitations for civil and criminal prosecutions for sexually abusing children.   

We look forward to continuing to work with lawmakers, local communities and parents in Florida to enact policy that protects the safety of this state’s neighborhoods and children.   

Stacie Rumenap is president of Stop Child Predators, a national child safety advocate.

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A weekly podcast focusing on the people and stories shaping Florida politics produced by Trimmel Gomes an award-winning journalist and former statewide news director of Florida Public Radio. Gomes hosted its flagship program "Capital Report" and created the public affairs program "It's About Florida." Gomes is political commentator and regular political contributor to WTXL ABC 27 in Tallahassee.

 

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