Attorney General Ashley Moody on Tuesday kicked off the 2021 Human Trafficking Summit alongside Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin.
The virtual summit hosted local and national leaders to discuss various strategies and measures to protect victims, prevent human trafficking and prosecute perpetrators. More than 4,000 people from 40 states attended the summit and engaged in breakout sessions.
“Ending this despicable crime is a fight that we must win, and we cannot beat this evil by working alone,” said Moody, who also serves as chair of the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking. “The summit brings together critical stakeholders, as well as the public, to increase awareness and discuss ways that we can eradicate all forms of trafficking from our state. Thousands more are now equipped with the knowledge and tools to report human trafficking, save lives and rescue victims.”
The summit provided more than 15 hours of presentations. Breakout sessions spanned topics including policy, research, law enforcement, health care and more. Summit speakers included Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez, Department of Juvenile Justice Acting Secretary Josefina Tamayo, Rep. Toby Overdorf and Department of Children and Families Secretary Shevaun Harris.
Nunez touted Florida as a national leader in the fight against human trafficking.
“I can think of very few issues that get so much continuous attention as human trafficking,” Nunez said.
Nunez highlighted several pieces of legislation, including the Safe Harbor Act and the creation of the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking, as evidence of Florida’s ongoing focus on the issue.
Among other provisions, the Safe Harbor Act directs juvenile sex trafficking victims to nonpunitive housing, such as a safe house.
“There’s been so many bites at the apple if you will,” Nunez added. “Its not because Florida didn’t get it right from the onset. It’s that we are smart enough and wise enough to know we need to address this terrible, horrific scourge that occurs each and every day.”
As keynote speaker, Godwin highlighted the state’s effort to thwart human trafficking ahead of Super Bowl LV in Tampa via the It’s a Penalty campaign. The campaign raised awareness among tourists, businesses and drivers about human trafficking.
Alongside his wife, Mariah, Godwin encouraged attendees to utilize various platforms to educate individuals and groups across the state. The mission, the couple said, will require teamwork.
“In a community of advocates who work to end human trafficking, everyone has a purpose. … We all have a role in this fight and our communities will always be stronger when we tackle on our individual roles with purpose,” they added.
Moody presented several awards during the summit alongside Harris and Tamayo. Harris presented DCF’s Human Trafficking Investigator of the Year award to Tara Galipault of the Pasco County Sheriff Office. Tamayo presented DJJ’s Human Trafficking Advocate of the Year award to Meghan Thrasher, a juvenile probation supervisor and liaison in Marion County.
Moody named Stephanie Patton as Survivor Advocate of the Year, Godwin as Community Advocate of the Year, Erin Daly as Prosecutor of the Year and Investigator Beth Bascom as Law Enforcement Official of the Year.
Bascom, a Tallahassee Police Department detective, served as lead investigator of Operation Stolen Innocence. The two-year child sex trafficking investigation led to the arrest of 170 people.
“Through her years of service, she’s done nationally recognized work investigating human tracking cases, provided critical testimony in human trafficking prosecutions and strengthened Florida’s response to human trafficking,” Moody said.
Registration for the Human Trafficking Summit is cost-free and remains open. Summit material will remain online through April 2022.
More information is available online.