Human trafficking isn’t new, nor is the threat to young Floridians, but it is growing. Yesterday the Department of Children and Families produced its annual report to the state in conjunction with Florida’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability. What it showed is that over the past year, Florida has remained third nationally for human trafficking of minors. It also provided specifics that paint a clear picture of the threat to kids in our state, especially in South Florida.
There were 2,600 reported cases of commercial sexual exploitation of minors, 1,500 formal investigations conducted, 400 victims identified/recovered, and 370 cases not substantiated.
So, what does all that mean? It means that 86% of reports were legitimate. Furthermore, we lose more than six kids per day to human trafficking in Florida and once lost to trafficking, 82% aren’t recovered. Of those recovered the most common profile is a white female between the ages of 14 to 17. Additionally, the report stated that often the exploiters are unknown by victims and recovered victims are often reluctant to disclose exploitation out of fear and trauma. The highest rates of trafficking in the state were recorded in Broward, Miami-Dade, Duval and Orange Counties.
The state passed a new law during this year’s state session that mandates training and reporting of suspicious activity at hotels by hospitality workers. It was aimed at curbing this problem. Let’s hope this problem which is out of sight and generally out-of-mind to Floridians is taken more seriously. If six children per day were being shot and killed in our state there would be a fever pitch of protests and calls for reforms to make it stop. Something arguably worse is taking place but where’s the concern? Or do we only care about kids when it fits a political objective? That's too bad, because this issue is too important, and our kids deserve better.
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