|October 3, 2013
Media Contact: Whitney Ray
Phone: (850) 245-0150
TAMPA, Fla.–Governor Rick Scott today kicked off the second statewide human trafficking summit. Governor Scott addressed a crowd of more than 700 law enforcement officials, members of the legal community, service providers, health care professionals, educators and other first responders at the University of South Florida to start the summit, which focuses on labor and sex trafficking of both children and adults.
Governor Scott said, “Human trafficking is a form of modern day slavery that affects more than 27 million people worldwide, including an estimated two million children. I will continue working with the Department of Juvenile Justice, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and our partners to support the most vulnerable among us and fight against this horrific crime. As a father and grandfather, it is important that we protect our most vulnerable.”
Attorney General Pam Bondi said, “Human trafficking is modern day slavery, and human traffickers subject children, women and men to sexual exploitation and forced labor. We must all work together to stop this horrific crime from occurring in our state, and this Human Trafficking Summit is a great way for law enforcement, the public, victim advocates, government agencies and others to join together in the fight against this egregious crime.”
Department of Juvenile Justice Deputy Secretary Christy Daly said, “Collaboration is critical to increasing awareness and advancing understanding so we can protect our Florida residents from those who prey on our most vulnerable residents. I am honored to join with so many state agencies to provide training and information on best practices regarding prevention, identification and response to a wide array of professionals.
”Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Ken Lawson said, “The Department of Business and Professional Regulation is committed to doing its part in the efforts to fight the growing epidemic of human trafficking. This is an issue that has a large societal impact, and we plan to do all that we can to help raise awareness both within our Department and to our licensees.
”Department of Children and Families Interim Secretary Esther Jacobo said, "Now that society and the law acknowledges young people who have suffered the trauma of human trafficking as victims, DCF and our partners are committed to developing services and treatment that help them recover and thrive.”
Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Jesse Panuccio said, “Labor trafficking is a horrifying practice and DEO is committed to helping prevent and detect this criminal, inhumane activity. Working with fellow agencies at the state and federal level, DEO trains our workforce staff to recognize the signs of trafficking and to aid the victims of trafficking.”
Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey said, “Human trafficking is a growing problem and Florida law enforcement is working aggressively to identify and investigate this egregious crime.”
Gov. Scott presented awards to the following individuals who were recognized as this year’s outstanding advocate, prosecutor and law enforcement official. Sergeant Patrick Guckian, Law Enforcement Officer of the YearSergeant Patrick Guckian is currently employed by the Orlando Police Department where he has served with distinction as a sworn law enforcement officer since 1997. In Orlando and throughout Central Florida, Sergeant Guckian has taken the lead within the law enforcement community to train law enforcement officers on the best practices in recognizing and investigating human sex trafficking offenses. Over the past year, Sergeant Guckian has attended hundreds of hours of training throughout the United States on human sex trafficking in an effort to expand his knowledge. With his continuous training and personal experience, Sergeant Guckian has developed law enforcement and civilian enforcement training. He has made 50 human sex trafficking training and public awareness presentations over the past several months. As a direct result of Sergeant Guckian's proactive training, 2013 has been a banner year for the rescue of juveniles and adults from a life of forced sex trafficking in Central Florida. Sergeant Guckian or those directly trained by Sergeant Guckian, have rescued 6 juveniles from forced prostitution over the past year, the youngest of which was 14 years old.
Dotti Groover- Skipper, Advocate of the Year
With years of serving as an advocate for human sex trafficking with the Clearwater/Tampa Bay Task Force on Human Trafficking, the Heartdance Foundation and the RAHAB project, Ms. Dotti Groover-Skipper recently spearheaded the planning and implementation of the Hillsborough County Commission on the Status of Women’s 2012 Fall Forum on Sex trafficking of Minors. In response to reports and recommendations received from this forum, the Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to develop a community-wide awareness campaign on the issue of human trafficking. Building upon relationships established and strengthened through the forum, Dotti was asked to Chair the Community Campaign against Human Trafficking and the Tampa Sex Trafficking Collaborative. To enhance these efforts, Dotti mobilized over 60 organizations to collaboratively establish a unified message that ensures all partners speak with one voice of the need to bring the tragedy of human trafficking to resolution.
Stacie B. Harris, Prosecutor of the Year
Stacie B. Harris is the Assistant United State Attorney, Middle District of Florida, Tampa division where she has been critical in prosecuting human trafficking perpetrators. Most recently, she was involved in the federal prosecution of Weylin 0. Rodriguez, the first person to be sentenced to life for sex trafficking in Florida and one of only 10 in the country. To date, AUSA Harris has prosecuted more than 10 defendants in federal court for sex trafficking-related charges. In addition to being an outstanding prosecutor, AUSA Harris has been a presenter at the International Association of Human Trafficking Investigators, taught Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Investigations to a group of lawyers, judges and professors from Brazil in preparation for the 2013 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics, and instructed attorneys at the Florida Attorney General's Children's Legal Services on how to identify child sex trafficking victims. AUSA Harris has also been recognized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for her accomplishments regarding human trafficking.
If you are aware of any individual who is being abused or exploited, please call the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-962-2873.