Florida unveils new campaign to combat sex trafficking
New billboards will reach out to parents, kids
7:09 PM, Sep 27, 2013
TAMPA - "The majority are females," said Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.
The billboard slogan reads "From instant message to instant night mare."
"We're going to provide instant action to save the children," said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
Judd says young girls and women are lured into sex trafficking sometimes through social media. Now Florida is fighting back.
"This has got to stop." In the entire country, our state is third and we are going to do everything in our power to put them out of business," said Bondi.
Florida Attorney General Bondi announced a new statewide campaign.
"These billboard are going to be all over the state of Florida. Bus shelter posters, mall displays, and it directs parents to MyFloridaLegal.com for a tip sheet about how to talk to your kids about internet safety," she said.
It's not just the billboards. The state's investing in training for law enforcement the trucking industry, convenience stores and more to help identify victims. Girls Sheriff Judd says are all too often controlled and sold.
"A 15-year-old child showed up driven by a 48-year-old man. We immediately suspected this child was trafficked. When she arrived, she was tattooed. She was branded by her pimp. She was property," he explained.
Tampa Bay ranks in the top ten for underage sex trafficking-- cases piling-up in places you drive by all the time.
Just days ago Tampa Police say they arrested a couple, a man and a woman, for forcing a young girl into prostitution at this Fowler Avenue hotel in Tampa.
They say when they found the victim, she was hiding in a car and feared for her life.
This was undercover Tampa Police Detective Mike Victor's case.
"They feel like it's a relationship. It's going to be more than what it is and a lot of these girls witness force and fear and they're just scared to leave," said Victor.
The billboard campaign will be front and center on highways across Florida. But Bondi is also asking parents to get their kids to sign a pledge and post it at home.
"Parents can tape the pledge to their home computer. You talk to your kids about this. You get your child to sign it and you can tape it to your computer so every time a child goes on the internet, it's going to remind them," said Bondi.