Attorney General Pam Bondi hopes to build on past anti-trafficking efforts with her new Statewide Council on Human Trafficking. She led the panel’s first meeting Monday in Tallahassee.
According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, Florida is ranked third in the nation for the number of calls received by the center’s human trafficking hotline.
Since she took office, combatting human trafficking has been one of Bondi’s main priorities. She says already, many stakeholders have become innovative and creative in order to stop this problem, calling it “an all-hands on deck” approach.
“We’ve partnered with the truckers, and they are our eyes and ears,” said Bondi. “And, I don’t know if you saw, there was a national article, they’re doing that in other states now too, which is great because where do you take a little girl to traffick her? A truck stop! Also, we’ve met with the Emergency Room physicians…they came to me and said ‘we want to be trained on what to look for regarding human trafficking.’ So, we’re thrilled to work with them.”
But, she says there’s still more work to be done. And, Monday, she convened a 15-member statewide council made up of prosecutors, law enforcement, lawmakers, non-profit groups, and different state agency officials.
She also sought the expertise of Florida State University’s Center for the Advancement of Human Rights' Terry Coonan, who she calls the “Guru of Human Trafficking.”
Coonan broke down some of Florida’s high profile cases as well as some of the trends.
“Many of our massage institutions have also been facades for sex trafficking, but increasingly also for labor trafficking,” said Coonan. “We’re also finding out that many of our nail salons around Florida also have young woman from Southeast Asia that are all paying off a debt—a smuggling or an immigration debt that was saddled on them in their home country and they’re in the process of paying off once they’re here in Florida. We have our hands full!”
Some suggestions the panel came up with include looking into ways for victims to sue their traffickers as well as putting a greater focus on labor trafficking, not just sex trafficking.
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