Why Is Tampa #1 For Human Trafficking? Here's What You Need To Know
The state of Florida ranks among the top three US states (after California and Texas) in reported cases of human trafficking, with Tampa being one of the state's-- and the country's -- worst metropolitan offenders in that regard.
What is human trafficking -- and why is Tampa, Florida ranked #1 out of the top 10 cities for human trafficking? Read on to find out.
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What Constitutes Human Trafficking In The USA?
Human trafficking is an unlawful practice involving the use of force, fraud, or coercion to exploit individuals for labor, services, or commercial sex acts.
Furthermore, any minor below the age of 18 working in a sexual capacity is automatically considered to be a victim of child sex trafficking, whether force, fraud, or coercion are involved or not.
Traffickers rarely violently snatch their victims off the street: they tend to rely more on psychological manipulation -- such as threats or false promises -- to lure their victims into exploitative situations where they lose control of what happens to them.
Some victims find themselves trapped in "debt bondage" where they are expected to work off their travel/room/board expenses -- but, of course, their debt grows faster than their meagre earnings, so that they can never break free of it.
Who Are The Victims Of Human Trafficking?
Although anyone can fall prey to this hideous crime, traffickers tend to seek out victims who come from economic hardship, unstable/abusive home life, mental health issues, substance addiction, gambling debts, and other desperate situations and vulnerable backgrounds.
Some victims are local, others are brought in from abroad and have their documents seized by their "handlers", so that they find themselves stuck in a foreign country with no identification, an illegal status, and no one even knowing where they are.
Adult women are targeted for indentured domestic work and sex trafficking/prostitution to work sex clubs, strip clubs, illicit massage parlors, large sporting events, corporate conventions, etc.
Adult men are typically targeted for labor trafficking, involving hard labor in dangerous conditions for sub-minimum pay.
Children and young adults are also targeted for sex exploitation: unfortunately, it is not rare for the child's own family members to "sell them out" into the world of sex trafficking, for money or drugs.
Human Trafficking Is Difficult To Track And Prosecute
Human trafficking continues to be a challenge for the law enforcement as victims of human trafficking do not usually have someone advocating for them -- and are typically too terrified of the authorities to report their captivity or cooperate with investigators.
The best data available on the state of human trafficking in the USA comes from the National Human Trafficking Hotline run by the Polaris Project: the states and cities are ranked against each other on the basis of how many call-ins the national hotline received per capita.
Human Trafficking In The Tampa Bay Area
The state of Florida ranks third in the country for reports of human trafficking. Tampa, Florida, ranks as the 12th worst city in the US for human trafficking. Why is this?
What Attracts Human Traffickers To Tampa Bay?
The state of Florida has a large agricultural economy and a large immigrant population, which creates an opportunity for the proliferation of forced labor trafficking. As such, the Tampa Bay area, being one of Florida's largest metropolitan areas, bears a large share of the state's illicit human labor trade.
The Tampa Bay area is also host to much of the state's tourism, with easy international access through its seaports and airports, and a sizeable adult entertainment industry. As the result, it attracts a lot of sex trafficking, specifically in minors. As mentioned, minors and young adults from troubled homes are particularly vulnerable to being sex trafficked: it is no surprise that 75% of trafficked children in Tampa are runaway/throwaway teens.
How Does Tampa Fight Human Trafficking?
In recent years, Tampa has made several anti-human trafficking efforts to combat the problem locally. For example:
The Tampa Bay Human Trafficking Task Force
In 2020, the Department of Justice allocated extra resources to create a regional Tampa Bay Human Trafficking Task Force: a collaboration of local, state, and federal law enforcement working with organizations providing support to human trafficking survivors/victims. The three key focus areas of this collaboration are:
Education: train the law enforcement and educate the public to build awareness of human trafficking.
Rescue: coordinate support and resources to aid victims.
Enforcement: implement technology that improves the collection and sharing of data across different jurisdictions; assist law enforcement in investigating and prosecuting cases of human trafficking.
This initiative comes with a mobile app -- tip411 -- that allows community members who identify human trafficking to communicate anonymously with the Task Force investigators.
The Tampa Super Bowl LV Campaign
In 2021, It's a Penalty -- an initiative that uses global sporting events to raise awareness of child abuse, exploitation, and trafficking -- partnered up with the Super Bowl host committee, the Hillsborough County Commission on Human Trafficking, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the NFL to launch a campaign to educate locals and visitors about human trafficking happening in Tampa and around the world.
Those who suspect that a child is being victimized are encouraged to call the Florida Abuse Hotline at (800) 96-ABUSE.
The "No Room For Trafficking" Training Program
The hospitality industry is one of the hardest-hit private sectors when it comes to proliferating human trafficking, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the vulnerabilities involved even further.
In response, in 2020, The American Hotel & Lodging Foundation (AHLA Foundation), in tandem with the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association (FRLA), have put together a free "No Room For Trafficking" online training, specifically designed to educate hotel employees about the most up-to-date indicators of human trafficking activity in their midst.
Don't Let Human Trafficking Problems Bring Down Your Business!
Some industries are more prone to human trafficking than others, but none are immune!
Address and prevent the problem before it begins -- by educating your workforce about what human trafficking is, how to spot its tell-tale signs, and ways to safely report it to proper authorities.
To make this task easier on yourself and your employees, go with EasyLlama's anti-human trafficking training program! It takes the unpleasant (but unfortunately necessary) topics of forced labor and sex trafficking and presents them in simple-to-use, easy-to-understand, and fast-to-wrap-up modules your employees can complete straight from their mobile devices.
Written by: Maria Malyk