TAMPA, Florida – Florida’s big push to end human trafficking was the focus of a statewide summit that began Tuesday, October 6th.
For the first time this year, the Florida Human Trafficking Summit went virtual, and organizers said it provided more speakers and opportunities for residents of all 67 Florida counties and 38 states.
“Because the criminals who exploit women, men and children for profit are in no way deterred by this pandemic, we are virtually here because we want to protect all of our families and communities,” said Ashley Moody, Florida attorney general.
It has been for months ABC Action News’ I-Team exposed human trafficking in our community, often invisible.
We have revealed everything from children lured by online games and held as sex slaves to victims beaten, branded and sold dozens of times a day.
Law enforcement is now focused on the upcoming Super Bowl coming to Tampa next February.
“While the Super Bowl only lasts one day, we need to be vigilant well before the big game to get our message across that human trafficking will not be tolerated,” said Chad Chronister, Hillsborough County Sheriff, one of the moderators at the summit.
At this year’s Super Bowl in Miami, 20 human trafficking victims were recovered, including four girls under the age of 18.
Officials charged four people with trafficking in human beings.
Hillsborough County Sheriff’s MPs are already carrying out stitches that result in dozens of arrests.
They target traffickers who offer sex for sale online.
“We can follow these ads and see them move from Miami to Orlando to Jacksonville and eventually Tampa,” an undercover officer said during the presentation.
He said MPs rescued victims of human trafficking in motels, massage parlors and strip clubs.
“They have withheld some of their personal property, which is a big deal. Withholding a driver’s license or withholding credit cards, debit cards, birth certificates, passports, ”he said.
“As we near the Super Bowl, our goal is to get the message across to as many people as possible as often as possible that human trafficking will not be tolerated in Hillsborough County,” the undercover officer told summit attendees.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said nearly 900 cases were reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline in Florida over the past year.
Here’s the I-Team’s special coverage of human trafficking in the Tampa Bay area: KIDS SOLD FOR SEX
If you have a story for the I-Team to investigate, email us at email@example.com