Human Trafficking on the rise in Florida
Bottom Line: I’m thrilled to see a high-profile Floridian like Tim Tebow join the fight against human trafficking. Maybe, just maybe, his presence in this issue will help move the needle. Tebow took to the digital stage Tuesday at the annual Human Trafficking Summit to attempt to raise awareness regarding this human tragedy which is continuing to grow in our state. Putting his money and time where his mouth is, Tebow has begun fostering safe homes for victims and is helping to steer $100 million in federal funding to provide safe housing for victims across the country.
At Tuesday’s summit, chaired by Florida’s Attorney General Ashley Moody, we learned human trafficking cases rose significantly again last year. What’s more, she stated the Super Bowl in Miami this year, the pandemic and the Super Bowl in Tampa next year are likely still driving human trafficking rates higher in our state. According to the Human Trafficking Hotline here’s the case count they’ve tracked in Florida by year:
- 2015: 418
- 2016: 562
- 2017: 622
- 2018: 760
- 2019: 896
Cases have already more than doubled in the past five years – now totaling more than 22,000 cases nationwide annually. This means we lose more 60 Americans to human trafficking per day, including more than two Floridians. According to Florida’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, 400 victims were recovered in Florida last year. That means most Floridians who are lost to trafficking aren’t recovered. The highest concentration of cases in our state occur in Broward, Miami-Dade, Duval and Orange Counties in that order. Last year Florida passed a law which mandated training of hospitality professionals for the purpose of identifying potential victims. Ironically the pandemic effectively shelved that training along with introducing new avenues which are being used by traffickers to carry out their crimes. Additionally, the pandemic has led to greater desperation by potentially vulnerable people.
According to the Polaris Project here are some of the signs of a potential victim:
- Someone who is regularly unavailable but cryptic about why
- Someone highly anxious, submissive and nervous
- Sudden substance abuse
- Poor hygiene – especially when there’s a sudden change in hygiene
- Doesn’t speak freely about themselves or what’s going on
- Lack of awareness about time of day, day of the week, etc.
It’s also important to note that most prostitutes are trafficking victims. Studies have shown 89% of prostitutes in the United States aren’t doing so willingly.