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Questions raised on new Human Trafficking report that states Florida has most complaints ever

Posted: 6:56 PM, Feb 17, 2017
Updated: 2017-02-17 18:56:36-05

A new report reveals, Human Trafficking complaints to the national hot-line are now higher than they've ever been in Florida.Government agencies and advocate groups rely on those reports to promote funding their cause. But the I-Team found those numbers could be misleading.

Last year Florida had more than 1,600 complaint calls (1,623) to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. The most in Florida ever recorded.But the numbers are misleading according to Giselle Rodriguez with the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking.

National hotline workers send her cases to handle. She says many of the calls end up being people seeking help for food stamps, domestic violence, or immigration issues

"So these phone calls have nothing to do with actual human trafficking but they're still counted by the hotline." Giselle says.

The I-Team looked into local law enforcement numbers to see how many human trafficking calls and complaints they're getting. The numbers are drastically lower. St. Pete Police had the most with only 8 calls last year, Tampa only had 3 and Pasco had none.

  • 2016
    • Hillsborough SO...6
    • Pinellas SO...7    
    • Pasco SO...0
    • Polk SO...1
    • Tampa PD...3
    • St Pete PD...8

 

  • 2015
    • Hillsborough SO...7
    • Pinellas SO...    16
    • Pasco SO...1
    • Polk SO...0    
    • Tampa PD...2
    • St Pete PD...0

Reporter: What do these numbers tell you?  
Giselle: "It tells us that we are just not getting the proper information out to the public. We need to do a better job."
Reporter: It's clearly a problem everywhere but is it as big of a problem as some organizations or government agencies are making out here in Tampa Bay?
Giselle: "When you look at the number of cases that we have reported, not confirmed but reported, and you compare it to other cities like Miami, Atlanta, LA, Dallas, our numbers definitely don't match up. So it's important for people to understand absolutely it is happening, but i wouldn't necessarily use the word epidemic when we talk about this specific crime."

Giselle says educating the public that human trafficking isn't just sex trafficking, and that forced labor may be a bigger problem locally, may increase calls to law enforcement. She also explains part of the reason the Law Enforcement calls are low is that some victims find it hard to come forward and report their crime to police.

If you want to report a Human Trafficking Case The National Hotline number is:  1-888-373-7888

For more information from Florida's AG Office visit their website: http://youcanstopht.com/ .

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