In Florida, 781 human trafficking cases were identified in the most recent year for comprehensive data, which was 2021. According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, 1,253 victims were involved in those cases, with some cases involving multiple victims.
574 of the trafficking cases primarily involved sex trafficking, while 99 cases primarily involved labor, and 37 involved sex and labor.
Last September, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd announced that a law enforcement sting resulted in the arrest of 219 individuals. Polk County Sheriff’s Office was assisted by detectives from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Auburndale PD, Bartow PD, Davenport PD, Lakeland PD, Lake Hamilton PD, Lake Wales PD, Winter Haven PD, Zephyrhills PD, assisted with the investigation. Among the suspects arrested during the seven-day human trafficking enforcement operation called “Operation Traffic Stop 2” were three Disney employees and a high school teacher.
According to Sheriff Judd, 21 possible human trafficking victims were identified of the 119 prostitutes who were arrested. Two suspects were charged with human trafficking.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody has made human trafficking a top priority for the state law enforcement. Since she was elected in 2018, Moody has hosted annual summits to address the latest challenges surrounding the prevention of human trafficking.
Below is an excerpt from one of Moody’s recent reports on trafficking. Prior to Moody’s administration, the state’s previous attorney general, Pam Bondi, worked with Florida legislators to establish the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking, which was created through legislation passed and signed into law in 2014. The 15-member Council, chaired by the Attorney General, builds on existing state and local partnerships working to combat human trafficking. Members include law enforcement officers, prosecutors, legislators, as well as experts in the fields of health, education, and social services. The Council meets at least four times a year.
“Florida law defines human trafficking as a form of modern-day slavery. Victims of human trafficking are young children, teenagers, and adults. Thousands of victims are trafficked annually across international borders worldwide. Many of these victims are trafficked into this state. The Council was created by the Florida Legislature to build on existing state and local partnerships working to combat human trafficking, and our Council members have worked tirelessly to fulfill the mission of coordinating Florida’s response to fight all forms of human trafficking and support victims.”
Last year, the Florida Legislature passed House Bill 615, which created a duty
for the Council to assess the frequency to which social media platforms are used to assist,facilitate, or support human trafficking within the state. To meet this statutory objective, the Council conducted a statewide study with Florida law enforcement agencies on documented instances since 2019 in which social media was used to facilitate human trafficking, trafficking operations, or control victims. The survey was sent to 80 law enforcement agencies, going to all 67 sheriffs’ offices and police departments in major Florida cities. Results determined 146 of the 271 reported instances of social media platform use in human trafficking were attributable to Meta platforms—more than half of the reported instances. As a result, Attorney General Moody sent a letter calling Meta Platforms Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to appear before the Council to discuss what Meta is doing to prevent its platforms from being used to assist, facilitate, or support human trafficking.