Northeast Florida State Attorney Melissa Nelson announced Tuesday her office is creating a new division to go after human traffickers on the First Coast.
“Because these crimes intersect with almost all different areas of the criminal justice system including drug trafficking, sexual assault and others,” Nelson said. “And because these crimes affect some of the most vulnerable in our community, adding these dedicated resources is a way that we can help those preyed upon to end this vicious cycle.”
Nelson is a member of the Northeast Florida Human Trafficking Coalitio, which works with judges, lawyers, police officers, social workers and community groups to increase awareness of the problem.
Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said last year the coalition helped 44 victims and put more than two dozen human traffickers behind bars — including this one:
“In 2016 we arrested Antwan Harper: He approached a juvenile victim 15-year old, who was also a missing person, in a local mall in late 2015. He used another juvenile victim to indoctrinate her. He photographed her, posted online advertisements promoting his commercial sex operation and ultimately he was arrested and has pled guilty to child sex trafficking.”
Williams credits training, education and outreach programs for last year’s successes.
And he continues to urge the public to remain vigilant and to call police if they suspect someone may be a victim of human trafficking.
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
Reporter Cyd Hoskinson can be reached at 904-358-6351, firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @cydwjctnews