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Gathering at EFSC Attacks Human Trafficking
January 11, 2016 - It’s modern day slavery with an estimated 21 million people in bondage worldwide.
It’s called human trafficking and involves the exploitation of mostly women and children who are forced into prostitution, pornography, involuntary labor and servitude.
Top officials from across the Space Coast took a tough look at the issue Monday during a Human Trafficking Symposium at Eastern Florida State College that was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Bill Posey of Rockledge.
More than 300 people attended the session at the Simpkins Fine Arts Center on the Cocoa campus with law enforcement and social service officials calling trafficking a plague that exists in Florida and Brevard County that must be attacked.
“Human trafficking enables criminals who both traffic and exploit individuals, including many young girls, to make a huge profit,” said Posey. “Few things are crueler in our society and we have a moral obligation to end it.”
In the past two years, Florida Today has reported these local trafficking incidents:
- A 14-year-old runaway from Cocoa sold for sex in dingy hotel rooms and warned not to tell anyone.
- An Ethiopian woman who told Melbourne police that she escaped from her job as a maid. She said the family that brought her to the U.S. did not pay her nor give her food as promised. She also claimed she was physically abused.
- Twenty-four teens and preteens crammed into a van and sent into communities without food or water to sell cheap goods so their bosses could pocket the profit.
The problem has grown to the point that the international tourism hub of South Florida has been cited as the third-busiest area for sex trafficking in the nation, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
In all, human trafficking is a $32 billion a year illegal industry globally.
“Three or four years ago, we thought this only occurred in Asia. We know now it’s happening here,” said Dr. Anthony Davis, Chairman of the East Coast Human Trafficking Task Force and Vice-Chair of the Greater Orlando Human Trafficking Task Force.
“A girl can be sold 20 to 30 times a day. This is not someone else’s problem. We have to take the blinders off because, unless we fix it, we’re part of it. It’s not possible for a single agency to solve this. We all need to work together.”
Other speakers included Brevard-Seminole State Attorney Phil Archer and Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey who urged members of community groups to become more knowledgeable about the problem.
“For too long, it’s been that little secret no one wants to admit we have. But yes, we have it here,” said Ivey.
Under a law passed by the state Legislature last year, signs raising awareness about human trafficking are now being posted throughout Florida in strip clubs, airports, rest areas and emergency rooms. The signs include phone and text-message numbers to report trafficking.
More law enforcement agencies in Florida are also using specialized task forces to
rescue victims and prosecute those who enslave them.