Florida sees increase in calls to human trafficking hotline: Hotline received nearly 1,000 calls last year
Florida child welfare officials say calls reporting suspected human trafficking in Florida have doubled since 2010.
The hotline received nearly 1,000 calls last year, compared to 480 in 2011.
The most recent survey from the Department of Children and Families found that 28 percent of all Florida child human trafficking victims are located in the 12-county region that comprises Central Florida.
DCF said Tuesday that the increase is a result of a successful awareness and education campaign about human trafficking.
Secretary Mike Carroll said very few people are unaware of what human trafficking is, which was not true four years ago.
Recently in Central Florida, there have also been some very successful busts.
In September, accused gang members were found guilty in federal court of sex trafficking a 14-year-old girl near the Florida Mall. Testimony revealed they used drugs, intimidation and physical restraint
Last week, in Orange County, Aaron George was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of sex trafficking a 16-year-old girl.
More than 250 case managers and child protective investigators statewide have special certification in human trafficking. Training is underway for a new screening tool to help identify human trafficking victims in foster care and in juvenile justice programs.
“The more people report, the more eyes we can be for law enforcement, maybe see something they’re not catching,” said Tomas Lares, executive director of Florida Abolitionist, a group dedicated to ending human trafficking.
The signs of human trafficking include:
-Inability to speak to individual alone
-Signs of physical abuse
-Submissive or fearful
-Under 18 and in prostitution
-Poor living conditions/living with employer
Last year, the Florida Legislature allocated funds to enhance screening and assessment of safe houses and therapeutic foster homes for victims.
January is human trafficking awareness month. On Jan. 24, the Greater Orlando Human Trafficking Task Force will hold an Awareness Day at Lake Eola. Over 8,000 people are expected to attend.