Human trafficking in Florida continues to be a problem (includes multimedia content)

Florida ranks behind California and New York for the total highest number of reported human trafficking cases in 2020, according to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. There were 738 confirmed cases of human trafficking reported here. Of these cases, 28 percent of the trafficked individuals were minors and 85 percent were female. These numbers only account for reported cases. The number of unreported cases of human trafficking remains up to speculation and the Florida Department of Education reports that up to 300,000 children in America are at risk for sexual exploitation. 

Although the National Hotline for Human Trafficking has not published data for 2021 and 2022 yet, numerous sex trafficking stings have made headlines in Florida as recent as just this September. In Miami, a man was sentenced to 50 to 60 years in prison for exploiting dozens of women and girls to work at clubs and have commercial sex, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

This trafficking went on for 20 years, with the man, William D. Foster, telling the victims he would invest their wages for early retirement but he really kept their money to himself. In Polk County, sting operation “Operation Fall Haul 2” was launched, resulting in the arrests of 160 traffickers and solicitors of prostitution. 

Miami-Dade County was named the number one county in Florida for trafficking cases, by Project Gold, an organization “established to bring the legal and provider community together around the issue of child sex trafficking.” South Florida is a huge breeding ground for human trafficking operations due to being a popular tourist destination and having multiple entryways, such as airports and seaports. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is a huge reason why there is a drop in reported cases from 2019 to 2020 in Florida. People staying indoors most likely hindered much of this activity and/or didn’t allow others to witness any suspicious behavior.

There is an expected rise in the number of human trafficking cases in 2021 following COVID-19 pandemic restrictions being lifted as well as the Super Bowl in Tampa last year. “Operation Game Over” was launched last year in Hillsborough County during the week of the Super Bowl, when over 70 people were arrested for soliciting and exploiting sex. 

To combat and crack down on human trafficking, Florida has local task forces in all its counties dedicated to fight human trafficking. The Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking is an organization that works closely with victims of human trafficking, providing them with food, shelter, medical treatment and other beneficial services to help these people restore their livelihoods.  

To learn more about human trafficking or to report a case, the number for the National Human Trafficking Hotline is 1 (888) 373-7888. You can also text this number 233733 “HELP” or “INFO” to contact. Lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Languages available are English, Spanish and 200 more. You can also visit their website for more information.

Kamille Bascus is an aspiring television editor who is pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Digital Journalism at Florida International University. In her free time, she enjoys editing, playing games with friends, and watching reality television shows.