The past year has been more challenging than most. Although the pandemic has changed the way we live our lives, it has not stopped human traffickers from exploiting people for profit. January was Human Trafficking Awareness Month and the Pasco Sheriff’s Office remains committed to ending human trafficking.
Simply put, human traffickers take advantage of vulnerable people and use force, fraud, or coercion to compel them into commercial labor trafficking, sex trafficking, or involuntary servitude.
Human trafficking is the fastest growing and third largest criminal enterprise in the world. According to the Florida Dream Center, an estimated 21 million children, women and men are caught in the cycle of trafficking worldwide. Florida is ranked third highest in the nation for human trafficking, with the Tampa Bay area high on the list of areas in which trafficking occurs.
The Pasco Sheriff’s Office is able to assist those affected by this crime through partnerships with federal, state and local agencies and organization. PSO is a member of several groups dedicated to combatting this scourge, including the Pasco Commission on Human Trafficking. PSO also works to address this crime through our specially trained Human Trafficking Unit.
Everyone can help end human trafficking. Staying informed and spreading awareness are two ways you can easily help end this horrific crime.
Here are some possible indications that someone is being trafficked:
• Constantly accompanied by a controlling person or boss.
• Lack of control over personal schedule, money, financial records, back account, identification or travel documents.
• Transported to and from work, or lives and works in the same place.
• Debt is owed to employer, making them unable to leave their job.
• Shows signs of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture.
• Not allowed or able to speak for themselves (a third party may insist on being present and/or translating).
The Pasco Sheriff’s Office also encourages parents to speak with their children about online safety, as awareness is the first step in preventing human trafficking. Knowing what kids are doing online and with whom they are in contact can go a long way in preventing children from being trafficked. Additional warning signs include new friends who are significantly older and new gifts, such as pre-paid credit cards, clothes or cell phones. Let your children know they can talk to you or a trusted adult about anything that makes them uncomfortable.
If you suspect someone is a victim of human trafficking, please call the National Tip Line at 1-888-373-7888.
Submitted by the Pasco Sheriff’s Office
“A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.” – Charles Spurgeon