HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. -- Hillsborough County leaders say the Tampa Bay area is better prepared than ever before to fight human trafficking ahead of Super Bowl LV. The big game will be played at Raymond James Stadium on February 7, 2021.
Community leaders, including County Commissioner Kimberly Overman, the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, the Tampa Police Department, State Attorney Andrew Warren, and several non-profit agencies have been working together for the past year on the Commission on Human Trafficking. Its aim is to put resources in place to help those affected by human trafficking, provide resources and services, and help try and stop human trafficking from happening around Super Bowl LV.
Through that partnership, non-profits have made critical discoveries about what is needed to truly help those who survive the horrors of human trafficking.
Over the last year, The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay has been able to hire a human trafficking care coordinator. They've also been training those who work at 211 on how to respond to calls regarding human trafficking. More than 100 people will be trained in total, according to Kathleen Kempke, who works with the crisis center.
The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay also found that while there are more than 2,000 resources available to everyone in Hillsborough County through 211 at your fingertips, there were not specific services readily available for victims of human trafficking. As a result, they've compiled a list of organizations and services that can be used to help ensure survivors can seek help. These include everything from finding shelter, to substance abuse training and even dentists.
“We will have those available to everyone in this county, in this area, as well as those who may be calling in looking for services," Kempke said in a meeting with the Commission on Human Trafficking. "We can connect them almost immediately.”
The Tampa Police Department is also preparing for a projected increase in reports of human trafficking surrounding Super Bowl LV. They are already opting to bring non-government organization calls out when responding to human trafficking calls to ensure victims can feel safer.
‘So if somebody doesn’t feel comfortable talking to law enforcement, they’ll be able to be de-briefed," said Tampa Police Assistant Chief Lee Bercaw.
Drivers can also expect to see billboards appearing along I-75, I-4 and other big Super Bowl LV areas, such as Dale Mabry Highway and Raymond James Stadium.
Digital and social media campaigns will launch a little closer to the big game as a part of Hillsborough County's "Don't Buy It" Campaign against human trafficking.