11 Oct Human Trafficking
Florida is a top destination in the U.S.
What is Human Trafficking?
Human Trafficking consists of many elements including:
- Forced prostitution.
- Forced production of video and photographic pornography.
- Involuntary labor.
- Involuntary servitude and debt bondage.
Human Trafficking involves the commercial exchange and exploitation of innocent people, often minors, and is a rapidly growing scourge worldwide. The ILO (International Labor Organization) estimates that the total global profits from Human Trafficking exceed $30 billion per year. It is now the second most common criminal activity behind the illegal drug trade worldwide. A recent Trafficking in Persons Report by the U.S. State Department confirmed that the United States is a destination country for Human Trafficking, and Florida is a one of the top three Human Trafficking destinations in the country. With its large immigrant population, constant influx of visitors, runaway minors, hotel and services industries, and agriculture’s need for cheap “stoop” labor, Florida is a magnet for Human Trafficking along with California and New York.
According to UNICEF, there are more than 2.5 million victims enslaved in the United States alone. Although slavery was purportedly ended by the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862, and subsequently by the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1865, it still flourishes today. Most of the victims are women and children used to provide cheap labor and sexual services by multinational criminal groups. However, men as well are also imported by the thousands often from China, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico and Russia. However, frequently the traffickers are home grown predators, entrapping teenage runaways and forcing them into prostitution. There are even examples where young girls are still living at home and secretly performing prostitution under threats of harm to their parents. If you know of a runaway teenager, TOP GUN INVESTIGATIONS can assist in finding them.
How to Identify and Assist a Human Trafficking Victim
We all have the potential to discover a Human Trafficking victim. Although victims are often kept behind locked doors, they are often hidden right in front of us at nail salons, hotels, restaurants, construction sites, and agricultural fields to mention a few. Traffickers use coercion such as threats of deportation and harm to their parents or other family members. The threats are so powerful that even if you reach out to a victim, they sometimes are too fearful to accept your help.
What are the “Red Flag” indicators of Human Trafficking?
Knowing the indicators of Human Trafficking and some tactful follow up questions are critical in developing your “gut feeling” that something is wrong. Although not an exhaustive list, the following are some of the more obvious “Red Flags” that should alert you to a potential trafficking situation and should be immediately reported to the authorities:
- They live with their employer.
- Their living conditions are poor.
- There are multiple people living in a cramped space.
- They are not permitted to speak to you alone.
- Their answers appear to be too scripted or rehearsed.
- Their employer holds their identification documents.
- There are signs of physical abuse.
- They appear unusually submissive or fearful.
- They are not paid or receive very little payment.
- They are under 18 and involved in prostitution.
- Tin foil, bars or other coverings on the windows.
- Different vehicles frequently visiting the house.
What questions should I ask if I suspect a trafficking situation?
In the event you are suspicious you need to very carefully attempt to speak with the potential victim privately without jeopardizing their safety. Always assume the trafficker is watching and listening. Here are a few questions to ask in following up on the Red Flags that caught your attention:
- Can you leave your job if you want to?
- Can you come and go as you please?
- Have you been hurt or threatened if to tried to leave?
- Has your family been threatened?
- Do you live with your employer?
- Where do you eat and sleep?
- Do you owe your employer money?
- Do you have your I.D./Passport?
- Is your employer holding your I.D./Passport?
If you have reason to believe someone may be in a trafficking situation, you should alert law enforcement immediately, or contact TOP GUN INVESTIGATIONS and we will be happy to answer your questions and make the appropriate contact. DO NOT attempt to rescue a trafficking victim as many traffickers are members of organized national or international criminal groups and are extremely dangerous. If you encounter a victim who has escaped from a trafficking location, there are a number of organizations where you can refer them to receive help with shelter, medical care, legal assistance and other critical services provided in a safe, secure and confidential location.
Who should I call if I suspect Human Trafficking?
First, do not hesitate to call 911 to report an urgent situation to law enforcement. In the Tampa Bay area, there are very active, highly trained task forces whose officers are assigned exclusively to the investigation of Human Trafficking and rescuing the victims. Any of the local police or sheriff departments will take your call and put you through to the appropriate investigators or investigative agency. If you are hesitant to get more involved, please call TOP GUN INVESTIGATIONS to anonymously share your concerns and we will take all the necessary steps to ensure it is investigated by law enforcement.
National Human Trafficking Resource Center: 1-888-373-7888
You may also call the 24 hour, multilingual National Human Trafficking Resource Center hotline, toll free at 1-888-373-7888. You can report your suspicions and also receive a referral to anti-trafficking services in the Tampa Bay area. The center is equipped to handle calls from every region in the United States from a wide variety of callers.
Department of Justice Worker Exploitation Complaint Line: 1-888-428-7581
The U.S. Department of Justice also has a dedicated toll free, Human Trafficking complaint hotline at 1-888-428-7581 where you can report suspected Human Trafficking and Worker Exploitation.
Human Trafficking is an increasingly tragic scourge in the United States, particularly in Florida and the Tampa Bay area. It is incumbent upon all of us to remain vigilant, looking for the indicators of this horrific enterprise. Never hesitate to contact the authorities if you suspect a trafficking situation, or Top Gun Investigations if you have any questions…you may very well save a young life!
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