ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA)- Ahead of some major local events, the Tampa Bay Human Trafficking Task Force is launching a mobile app in an effort to curb human trafficking in the area.
The app, available on both the Apple and Google Play app stores, will allow anonymous users to submit information on potential human trafficking situations.
“We wanted to make sure that our victims had a way to contact us, and also that our people that were witnessing some type of human trafficking,” St. Petersburg police Chief Anthony Holloway said during a news conference.
The app, called “Tampa Bay Human Trafficking Task Force,” allows users to submit locations, photos and tips about potential human trafficking.
Along with the app, information can also sent by texting HTTF to tip411 along with the tip.
Florida had the third-highest rate of human trafficking cases reported across the country in 2019. with 896 cases reported, according to the Human Trafficking Hotline.
Those reports of human trafficking led to the identification of more than 600 trafficking businesses— 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.
As Tampa prepares to host the Super Bowl in February 2021, local officials are ramping up against the celebrations surrounding the Big Game, notoriously susceptible to sex trafficking.
A spike of reported incidents in the U.S. around January and February, around when the Super Bowl is played.
According to the Institute for Sport and Social Justice’s “Shut Out Trafficking” program, there were approximately 450 reported incidents, with a jump to approximately 540 in February 2019.
That number dropped to less than 150 the following month.
Following the $741,556 federal grant awarded to the St. Petersburg Police Department from the U.S. Department of Justice, the task force was created last year, bringing together 11 local law enforcements agencies as well as the FBI and Department of Homeland Security.
Since the agency was put together nearly a year ago, 34 people have been arrested following more than 100 sex trafficking investigations.
“We are here for you. Your voice is being heard,” Holloway said. “We’re ready to rescue you if you’re ready to come home to your family.”