Insiders Update: May 28, 2015

Insiders Update
Posted at 11:00 PM, May 28, 2015
and last updated 2017-12-13 05:25:11-05

MIDWAY, Fla. (WTXL)--Once a month, we are revisiting previous stories from the Insiders to keep you updated on any developments.

In this segment, we are following up on the fight against human trafficking in Tallahassee and south Georgia. We are also highlighting some new resources available for volunteer firefighters.

Human trafficking awareness was in full swing. It's the largest growing criminal industry in the world generating close to 31 billion dollars each year. In January, we looked at the problem in the area and what law enforcement was doing to battle it. Law enforcement officers say crimes can range from sex exploitation of minors to labor exploitation of illegal immigrants.

The victims are any sex, race or age. It's a crime that can go unnoticed, hidden in plain sight. Florida has the third most cases of human trafficking in the United States.

"Sex trafficking is nothing more than mass rape and repeated often on a nightly basis," said Terry Coonan, the FSU Director of Human Rights. "Many of the young women that we've worked with have been subjected to 25 to 30 sex acts a night."

On May 23, the Leon County Sheriff's Office arrested Travis Phillips and charged him with sexual exploitation of a minor case. Thanks to a tip from Franklin County deputies, detectives found an advertisement on a web site that appeared to show the 15-year-old victim. After investigators set up a time to meet with the victim, Leon County Sheriff Deputies arrested and charged Phillips with coercing a child into prostitution activities and commercial sex trafficking, among other charges.

Recent arrests haven't stopped there. In March, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement made a massive discovery that led to 15 arrests. It all started in 2013. Collier County deputies made a traffic stop where they notice a trafficking victim in the vehicle. That began a joint investigation between the deputies and FDLE. After more than a year, that investigation uncovered a trafficking ring that spanned five counties.

With stiffer penalties and more agencies working together across jurisdiction lines, more arrests are inevitable in the fight against modern day slavery, human trafficking.

It's a story we brought you in January, the shortage of volunteer firefighters.

Volunteer fire departments are always looking for people to help them put out the flames and protect communities.

Chief Richard Meuth, with the Woodville Volunteer Fire Department, says the biggest reward is helping others.

 "If it's two o'clock in the morning, and it's the house next to me and she has a heart condition, well, I'm going to beat the paid guys there because I literally walk out of my house, and walk next door," said Meuth. "There are times we make a difference, and there are times that we get canceled because we're not needed, but that's okay. The help that gets there first is the help that needs to be there first."

Meuth is working to add members to his staff.

He says three people are now going through the application process to join the department.

Another person has signed on to help with administrative duties.

Chief Meuth says whether you want to work behind the scenes or on the front lines, there are a number of ways to help your community.

There's a new recruitment push from the National Volunteer Fire Council. The organization has launched a web site for volunteer departments or those with a combination of unpaid and paid firefighters to post their volunteer opportunities.

It's part of a campaign called "Make Me a Firefighter." On the web site, departments can upload their own logos and create recruitment ads to target different demographics including those between the ages of 18 and 34.

That age group is the target of the campaign. The council says with 80 million Americans in this group, there's a lot of potential for new members.

A recent study shows that four out of 10 millennials are somewhat interested in volunteering.

After all, the council says this group is the future.

If you have a story for the Insiders, send us an email at, "attention: Insiders."