The elected officials of the Florida Cabinet are standing as one against human trafficking, an issue that’s a particular problem in the state with the third-most cases in the country.
Per a release from Attorney General Ashley Moody, the Cabinet is recognizing January as Human Trafficking Prevention Month. To that end, Moody and other elected officials are offering statements.
“Florida is a zero-tolerance state for human trafficking. Our Statewide Prosecutors work hard to stop traffickers, with a nearly perfect conviction rate,” Moody said.
“We also are dedicated to raising awareness of potential signs of trafficking and have trained thousands of Floridians to spot and report this crime — from truck drivers to those who work in our ports, hospitality and medical industry and many others in our state’s workforce. The Governor and Florida Cabinet stand united in our resolve to stop traffickers, rescue victims and end this atrocious crime.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis, fresh from a presidential campaign, contrasted Florida’s actions with those taken by the Washington government.
“As the federal government continues to ignore the human trafficking that is linked to our open Southern Border, Florida has taken action to eliminate this scourge from our state. We have increased penalties for human traffickers, helped victims recover and expanded our efforts to protect vulnerable children. In 2024, we will continue to do everything we can to crack down on the heinous criminals who participate in human trafficking, and we will continue to protect Florida’s innocent children,” DeSantis vowed.
Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson is no less committed, meanwhile.
“It takes a united front to combat human trafficking in our state and country. Having as many eyes and ears as possible throughout our communities to identify and report suspected cases of human trafficking is instrumental to putting an end to this horrific crime,” Simpson said.
“At the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, we are committed to training our employees on signs to look for that may indicate human trafficking and how to report it. I urge all Floridians to take the time to learn the potential signs and indicators of human trafficking and to report any suspicious activity to law enforcement — it could save a life.”
Jimmy Patronis, the state’s Chief Financial Officer and Fire Marshal said he was working in his area of responsibility to fight the scourge.
“It is a horrifying statistic that Florida ranks third in the nation in reports to the national human trafficking hotline. In 2022, I advocated for legislation that now provides training to our state’s fire safety inspectors on how to identify and recognize human trafficking in Florida,” Patronis said.
“It’s critical for first responders to have this training because a lot of times they are the first ones who identify a case and can save lives. We must do all we can to put an end to human trafficking and it takes every single person working together and sharing information to accomplish that goal. A huge thank you Governor DeSantis, Attorney General Moody and Commissioner Simpson for their support in bringing traffickers to justice.”
New laws recently went into effect in the state to help officials fight this scourge.
SB 1718 makes bringing an undocumented immigrant into Florida a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine, with additional penalties for multiple offenses.
SB 7064 allows victims to sue their traffickers and recover damages from adult entertainment establishments that facilitate their abuse. Victims are eligible for restitution from the sale of their traffickers’ seized property. The bill also increased the penalty for adult establishments that exploit minors from a misdemeanor to a felony.
SB 1690 concerns lodging establishments and shelters. It requires human trafficking information signs to be displayed in sheltering facilities for victims and children, as required for numerous other sites, including strip clubs, massage parlors, emergency rooms, highway rest stops, transit stations and airports.
Of course, there’s only so much that can be done on the state level, as U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott would likely agree. Last year, they wrote U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas with concerns over the May 31 end of “familial DNA testing.” They claimed that policy change would further enable cross-border “human trafficking and exploitation.”
Gray Rohrer and Jesse Scheckner of Florida Politics contributed to this report.