From the Sheriff, Noel E. Stephen
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the daily routines of millions of Americans, including how human traffickers operate their criminal enterprises.
According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, crisis cases increased nationwide by more than 40% during April 2020—one month following the issuance of shelter-in-place orders. The number of victims seeking emergency shelter nearly doubled during the same time period.
These heartbreaking and disturbing preliminary reports show us just how much work needs to be done to stop these monsters from forcing more innocent lives into this despicable, illicit enterprise.
This week, in partnership with the It’s a Penalty campaign and the Tampa International Airport, my office helped unveil new human trafficking prevention signs across TPA. With Super Bowl LV coming to Tampa in February, and the second straight year of the Super Bowl being held in our state, Florida expects to see a surge in visitors. These signs are designed for victims to reach out for help and for encouraging travelers and airport staff to report instances of human trafficking.
For more information about how to spot and report human trafficking, visit YouCanStopHT.com. Floridians can also still register for our virtual 2020 Human Trafficking Summit to access hours of educational content.
I encourage all Floridians to learn the signs of human trafficking. Take preventative actions to protect yourself and your family’s online activity from human traffickers looking to exploit the virtual world to advance this repulsive, heinous crime.
If you suspect or witness any instance of human trafficking, contact local law enforcement or call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1(888) 373-7888.
By reporting instances of human trafficking and helping citizens become more aware, we will build a Stronger, Safer Florida.