Led by Attorney General Pam Bondi, Florida has taken a proactive role in recent years to stop the problem of human trafficking. Despite the state’s efforts, human trafficking still remains a serious problem here in the Sunshine State.
According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, the number of reported cases grew by 135 percent in Florida between 2012 and 2016. Florida ranks third each year in the number of reported cases to the hotline.
“Human trafficking ruins lives and demeans life itself and those who perpetrate it must be caught and imprisoned,” said Pam Marsh, former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida. “We must draw human trafficking out of the shadows and expose it to the full light of day, only then can we eradicate it.”
Two Florida lawmakers want to ensure Florida’s efforts to combat the problem remain a focus of state leaders and the Attorney General’s office long after Bondi steps down as attorney general at the end of the year due to term limits.
“Human trafficking is the modern form of slavery, the illegal smuggling and trading of people every year,” said Rep. Barry Russell, D-Lauderdale Lakes, one of the bill’s sponsors.
Russell and Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, are sponsoring bills in this year’s legislative session that would provide for an ongoing public education campaigns to make Floridians aware that human trafficking exists and it exists very much in Florida. The campaigns would focus on segments of the state’s population that are particularly vulnerable to human trafficking, especially children.
The Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking defines human trafficking as “recruiting, transporting, or receiving a person through threat, force of other coercion for the purpose of exploitation.” That usually involves forced labor or sexual exploitation.
“According to the U.S. Department of Justice, a trafficker, with an average of four to six victims, can make up to $150,000 to $200,000 per person per year,” said Thurston.
The legislation would also create the state’s own human trafficking hotline that would be under the the authority of the Attorney General’s office. Supporters say having its own hotline would allow the state to focus on the unique challenges human trafficking poses here in Florida.
“Tallahassee, we have a problem,” said Lavern Deer with the Female Development World Organization which provides help to female victims of human trafficking. “Our Sunshine State is ranked third in the U.S. for human trafficking. We must have laws in place to stop it.”
January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month.