TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Flanked by Tim Tebow and the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump, Attorney General William Barr announced Monday that $100 million in grants would go to help local and tribal communities in their efforts to stop human trafficking.
Florida had the third-highest rate of human trafficking cases reported across the country in 2019. According to the Human Trafficking Hotline, 896 cases were reported.
Last year’s 896 reports of human trafficking led to the identification of more than 600 trafficking businesses. That’s an increase from 2018 when the state had 760 reports of human trafficking.
Since 2007, Florida has had more than 4,600 reported cases of human trafficking, leading law enforcement to more than 12,400 victims across the state.
According to statistics from the NHTH, most of the human trafficking reports last year were calls warning law enforcement of illicit massage/spa businesses.
In 2017, 8 On Your Side exposed how the City of Tampa was planning a crackdown of prostitution in nearly a dozen of the city’s illicit health spas, in an effort to combat human trafficking. Early this year, 8 On Your Side discovered that despite a move by Tampa City Council to require bathhouse permits by some of the spas in question, only one of 21 locations obtained a permit
The problem continues to plague Florida as well as the rest of the country.
More than 22,000 victims were identified by the NHTH in 2019. Nearly 5,000 survived labor trafficking and an alarming 14,597 survived sex trafficking.
Many of those victims were teenagers.
According to a study of the U.S. Department of Justice human trafficking task force cases, 83 percent of sex trafficking victims identified in the United States were U.S. citizens.
The same study also found that the average age that a trafficked victim is first used for commercial sex is between 12 and 14 years old. Some victims are as young as 9 years old.
According to the Florida Dream Center, which provides aftercare for human trafficking victims, the life expectancy for a child taken into sex trafficking is only seven years from the date of capture.
The NHTH led law enforcement to more than 4,000 traffickers and nearly 2,000 suspicious businesses in 2019.
“This is one of the top enforcement priorities of the department and we’re on the forefront of this fight,” Barr said during Monday’s announcement. “It’s only by cooperating with all our partners, our state and local partners and those in the private sector that we’re going to be able to make any progress and ultimately end the victimization of those boys and girls.”
If you or someone you know has been involved in human trafficking, law enforcement encourages you to call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text “BEFREE” to 233733.
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