Florida is one of the top three states in the US when it comes to reported cases of human trafficking, following closely behind California and Texas. Tampa, in particular, is known for being one of the highest human trafficking rate in the state according to Easy llama. In this article, we will delve into the world of human trafficking in Tampa, exploring its different forms and shedding light on the reasons why it has become such a prevalent issue in the area. Additionally, we will also discuss the efforts being made to prevent trafficking in Tampa and ensure a safer future for its residents.
What Constitutes Human Trafficking In The US?
Human trafficking is a criminal activity that involves exploiting individuals through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of labor, services, or commercial sex acts. It is important to note that any individual under the age of 18 engaged in sexual activities is automatically classified as a victim of child sex trafficking, regardless of whether force, fraud, or coercion is present.
Victims often find themselves caught in the cycle of “debt bondage,” where they are forced to work in order to pay off their travel, room, and board expenses. Unfortunately, their earnings are not enough to keep up with the increasing debt, leaving them trapped and unable to escape.
Who Are The Victims Of Human Trafficking?
Traffickers often target individuals who come from disadvantaged backgrounds and vulnerable situations, including those facing economic hardship, unstable or abusive home lives, mental health challenges, substance addiction, gambling debts, and other desperate circumstances. While anyone can become a victim of this heinous crime, these factors increase the risk and make individuals more susceptible to exploitation.
Some victims are from the local community, while others are brought in from other countries. These victims have their documents confiscated by their “handlers,” leaving them stranded in a foreign land without any identification, an illegal status, and no one aware of their whereabouts.
Adult women are frequently coerced into performing household work or are trafficked and forced to work in settings such as sex clubs, strip clubs, illegal massage parlors, large sports events, corporate conventions, and other locations. Conversely, adult men are typically trafficked for labor, engaging in precarious work for minimal compensation. Additionally, spousal abuse extends to children and young adults. In distressing circumstances, family members of the child often ‘sell them out’ to sex traffickers in exchange for money or drugs, highlighting a tragic reality.
Human Trafficking Is Difficult To Track And Prosecute
Law enforcement faces an ongoing challenge in addressing human trafficking, primarily due to the lack of advocacy for victims and their fear of reporting their captivity or cooperating with investigators.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline, operated by the Polaris Project, provides the most reliable data on the state of human trafficking in the USA. They rank states and cities based on the number of call-ins received by the national hotline and the calls per capita. Florida, for instance, ranks third in the country for reports of human trafficking. Interestingly, Tampa ranks 12th in the country for calls per capita. This raises the question, why is this the case?
What Attracts Human Traffickers To The Tampa Bay Area?
The Tampa Bay area is a popular destination for tourists in Florida, thanks to its convenient seaports and airports that provide easy international access. However, alongside its thriving tourism industry, the region also harbors a significant adult entertainment sector. Unfortunately, this has led to an increase in sex trafficking cases, particularly involving minors. It is important to note that runaway or throwaway teens from troubled homes are particularly susceptible to being victimized, as they make up 75% of the trafficked children in Tampa.
How Does Tampa Fight Human Trafficking?
In recent years, Tampa has taken significant steps to address the issue of human trafficking within its community. These efforts include:
The Tampa Bay Human Trafficking Task Force
In 2020, the Department of Justice dedicated additional resources to establish the Tampa Bay Human Trafficking Task Force, which brings together local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies in partnership with organizations that offer assistance to survivors and victims of human trafficking.
This collaboration has three main focus areas: education, rescue, and enforcement. The first focus area is education, which aims to provide training for law enforcement and raise awareness among the public about human trafficking. The second focus area is rescue, which involves coordinating support and resources to help victims of human trafficking. Lastly, the third focus area is enforcement, which emphasizes the use of technology to improve the collection and sharing of data across various jurisdictions. This technology plays a crucial role in assisting law enforcement in their efforts to investigate and prosecute cases related to human trafficking.
The initiative also collaborates with community members who identify instances of human trafficking, enabling them to communicate anonymously with the investigators of the Task Force.
The Tampa Super Bowl LV Campaign
In 2021, a collaboration was formed between It’s a Penalty, an initiative that utilizes global sporting events to increase awareness about child abuse, exploitation, and trafficking, and various organizations including the Super Bowl host committee, the Hillsborough County Commission on Human Trafficking, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the NFL. Together, they launched a campaign aimed at educating both locals and visitors of Tampa about the issue of human trafficking, both in the city and worldwide. If anyone suspects that a child is being victimized, they are encouraged to contact the Florida Abuse Hotline at (800) 96-ABUSE.
The “No Room For Trafficking” Training Program
The COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened the vulnerabilities in the hospitality industry, which is already one of the hardest-hit sectors when it comes to human trafficking.
In 2020, the AHLA Foundation and the FRLA collaborated to develop an online training program called “No Room For Trafficking.” This free training aims to educate hotel employees about the latest indicators of human trafficking within their establishments.
Don’t Let Human Trafficking Problems Bring Down Your Business
Certain industries have a higher susceptibility to human trafficking compared to others, but it’s important to remember that no industry is completely immune. To tackle this issue proactively, it is crucial to educate your workforce on the nature of human trafficking, teach them how to identify its warning signs, and provide them with the necessary knowledge to report any suspicious activities to the appropriate authorities in a safe manner.
Make it easier for yourself and your employees by using EasyLlama’s anti-human trafficking training program! This program simplifies the important but uncomfortable subjects of forced labor and sex trafficking. It provides modules that are user-friendly, easy to comprehend, and can be completed swiftly on your employees’ mobile devices. Get a sneak peek of the course for free today to discover more!
Q. What constitutes human trafficking in the US?
Answer: Human trafficking involves exploiting individuals through force, fraud, or coercion for labor, services, or commercial sex acts. Additionally, anyone under 18 involved in sexual activities is classified as a victim of child sex trafficking, irrespective of the presence of force, fraud, or coercion.
Q. Who are the common victims of human trafficking in Tampa?
Answer: Victims often come from disadvantaged backgrounds, facing economic hardship, unstable home lives, mental health challenges, substance addiction, and other desperate circumstances. Adult women are coerced into household work or trafficked into sex clubs, while adult men are typically trafficked for labor. Shockingly, family members sometimes facilitate trafficking of children for money or drugs.
Q. Why is human trafficking difficult to track and prosecute?
Answer: Challenges include victims’ fear of reporting their captivity or cooperating with investigators and a lack of advocacy for victims. This contributes to the complexity of tracking and prosecuting human trafficking cases.
Q. What attracts human traffickers to the Tampa Bay area?
Answer: Tampa’s convenient seaports and airports attract tourists, yet the region’s significant adult entertainment sector has led to an increase in sex trafficking cases, especially involving minors. Vulnerable runaway or throwaway teens from troubled homes are particularly at risk.
Q. What efforts are being made to fight human trafficking in Tampa?
Answer: Tampa has initiated various measures, including establishing the Tampa Bay Human Trafficking Task Force, focusing on education, rescue, and enforcement. Efforts also include collaborations like the Tampa Super Bowl LV Campaign to raise awareness and the “No Room For Trafficking” Training Program for the hospitality industry.