TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Hillsborough County deputies recently arrested more than 100 people in connection with a five-month-long undercover investigation surrounding human trafficking. 8 On Your Side is now digging deeper into this growing problem in Florida.
Data from the U.S. State Department reports an estimate of between 18,000 and 20,000 human trafficking victims each year.
Trafficking in Florida
A report published by Florida State University’s Center for the Advancement of Human Rights shows Florida is one of the top three states reportedly receiving the majority of the women and children trafficked annually into the U.S. New York and California were also named in the report.
Last year, the National Human Trafficking Hotline received more than 760 reports of human trafficking cases. That number has been growing steadily over the last five years, starting at 373 in 2014.
Human Trafficking Cases in Florida Reported to the NHTH
Hover over the bars to see the exact number.Sources: National Human Trafficking Hotline
Last year’s 767 reports of human trafficking led to the identification of 1,771 victims, 506 traffickers and 306 trafficking businesses.
More than a fifth of human trafficking victims in Florida are children and the majority are female.
Who is being trafficked?
According to a study of 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.
Where is trafficking happening?
Florida has been known as a hotbed for human trafficking because of the state’s economy. With Florida’s booming agriculture and tourism industries – two industries where trafficking can flourish – law enforcement keeps a close eye to try and help victims.
Top sex trafficking venues in Florida:
- Commercial-Front Brothels
- Online Ad. – Venue Unknown
- Other Venues
Top labor trafficking venues in Florida:
- Domestic Work
- Traveling Sales Crews
- Restaurants/Food Service
- Other Industries
Florida has more than 5,000 registered travel vendors, as reported by the Florida Department of Agriculture. Travel agencies are regular collaborators with traffickers.