Message from Attorney General Bill McCollum
Human trafficking, a form of modern day slavery, is considered one of the worst offenses against human dignity. This week, a dedicated group of men and women met to discuss how we can best combat this terrible crime and protect its many victims. The Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking is an extraordinary organization with people who are committed to making a difference.
This modern-day form of slavery turns human lives into business transactions and deprives them of the most basic human right - the right to freedom. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, human trafficking is the second largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world. With Florida's unique geography, rapidly growing population, and huge influx of visitors every year, our state is at an elevated risk for being affected by this insidious crime.
Victims of human trafficking are predominately forced to work in prostitution or the sex entertainment industry, however other forms of labor exploitation are also prevalent, including domestic servitude and sweatshop factory work. Trafficked victims are difficult to identify for many reasons, primarily because their captors instill fear in them through various methods to keep them enslaved. Whether by force or by coercion, many victims believe they have no means to escape their situation and remain in bondage for the rest of their lives.
To successfully combat the growing problem of human trafficking we know that it requires many partnerships – partnerships with other nations, federal, state and local law enforcement, faith-based and other non-profit organizations. Here at the state level, as Attorney General, I want to bring attention to the plight of those who are victimized by this crime and ensure that traffickers are put behind bars where they belong.
I believe an important tool in combating trafficking was the passage of a law in 2004 that makes it a felony in Florida to engage in sexual trafficking of minors and categorizes human trafficking as a form of racketeering. This racketeering law allows our Office of Statewide Prosecution to actively pursue cases involving human traffickers. I know that our Statewide Prosecutor feels very strongly about the responsibility to protect those within Florida’s borders and I am confident our prosecutors will rise to this challenge.
Properly identifying victims has long been a problem, but I am pleased to announce that last week the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission added, as part of the basic skills course for all Florida law enforcement officers, training on human trafficking crime prevention and investigation. This added training will heighten awareness and allow law enforcement to bring more traffickers to justice.
As Attorney General, I will do everything within my power to protect human trafficking victims and punish the perpetrators who commit these deplorable crimes. Our citizens and our guests deserve nothing less than our strongest efforts.
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