Human Trafficking is Happening in Northeast Florida

January 10, 2013

Joan Walsh, Human Trafficking Coalition, (904) 236-1884
John Harrell, Florida Department of Children and Families, (904) 723-5470/(904) 233-7792

Event To Draw Attention To Growing Problem

JACKSONVILLE- Human trafficking of children, which includes sexual exploitation, is not just something that is happening in a foreign country. It’s happening in our cities and possibly even in our neighborhoods.

In 2009, there were 43 cases of human trafficking of children statewide in Florida. In 2011, that number increased to 427 cases. Experts believe this number may actually be significantly under-reported.

To draw attention to this important issue, the Northeast Florida Human Trafficking Coalition will hold a special event on Friday, January 11 at the St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Riverside’s Bryan Auditorium. At the event, there will be a panel discussion, with scheduled guests including an FBI victim support specialist who works with human trafficking victims, an assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted cases and a Jacksonville police expert. The panel’s special guest is Florida Department of Children and Families Northeast Region Director David Abramowitz.

Also at this event, the award winning movie “Nefarious: Merchant of Souls” will be shown. This movie illustrates the problem and the effect of human trafficking on its victims.

The State of Florida has passed a new law, the Florida Safe Harbor Act, to address the problem of human trafficking. The law enables law enforcement to help child victims of human trafficking. Police will now be able to bring trafficking victims to the Department of Children and Families, which will provide them with services such as counseling and therapy.

Children who are at risk for human trafficking are those who are runaways or those who have been abused and traumatized. Signs of human trafficking that people should be on the lookout for include children who are runaways, living on the streets or hotel rooms, and not going to school. Children in these situations may be afraid to talk to people alone, may have an unclean appearance, or may have an older male around who may be intimidating them. Additionally, websites like Craigslist may have suspicious ads that could signal that children are at risk.

Anyone who suspects that a child may be a victim of human trafficking should call the Department of Children and Families’ Abuse Hotline at 1-800-962-2873.