ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The St. Petersburg Police Department started a new task force whose purpose is to fight human trafficking.
They started their new Human Exploitation and Trafficking Unit in July. There are eight people in the unit. Sgt. Mitch Detty is in charge of seven detectives.
“You have real people in our city who are dealing with these things on literally an hour to hour basis and that’s their real life,” Sgt. Detty said.
Even before the new unit was formed, St. Petersburg detectives started working a possible human trafficking case. Once the unit was formed, the case moved quickly and detectives arrested a St. Petersburg man, Demetris Griffin.
He faces several charges, including human trafficking. Sgt. Detty said he forced three women to work for him as prostitutes.
“These are women that a lot of times would go unnoticed because of their past history,” Sgt. Detty said.
ABC Action News spoke to a survivor who changed her lifestyle many years ago. She is not involved or related to the St. Petersburg case.
The survivor’s name is Angie. She said at 17 she was forced to dance in strip clubs.
“I was beat horrifically every day. I was sold many times and it was in exchange for my own well being,” Angie said.
She shares her story because she wants to help others.
“The emotions I felt living in the life was that I prayed for death. I just wanted it to end. After coming from Selah, there is a better way….my future is so bright. I live a life better than I could have imagined,” Angie said.
She said she learned invaluable tools from Selah Freedom, which is an organization that helps women get their lives back together.
“Law enforcement has done a complete 180 and they are like the most heroic protectors that we have right now and they are fighting for these girls and the girls know it,” Elizabeth Melendez Fisher, the Co-founder and President/CEO of Selah Freedom, said.
According to Selah Freedom’s website, people can call 1-888-8-FREE-ME for help.
Sgt. Detty said if you are a victim or know of a victim, you can call their non-emergency number so they can investigate.
Sgt. Detty said he is proud to be a part of this new unit with the St. Petersburg Police Department.
“It really is a new approach to being able to help people,” Sgt. Detty said.