TALLAHASSEE,Fla. (WTXL) — Florida's Capitol lit up in blue Monday night in the fight to end human trafficking.
January 11 is Human Trafficking Awareness Day and local groups are concerned COVID-19 may be contributing to this criminal activity in the state and in the Big Bend area. Florida ranks third in the U.S. for human trafficking violations.
"It always involves vulnerability," said Robin Hassler Thompson.
Robin Hassler Thompson is the executive director for Survive and Thrive Advocacy Center in Tallahassee. She says vulnerability is the number one sign human and labor traffickers look for with an estimated 600,000 800,00 people being trafficked each year in the U.S.
"Be aware of anybody who is vulnerable in our community, that looks like they don't have the power to leave the situation that they're in," said Thompson.
But for some, the signs may go unnoticed, especially in children.
"There's all these different ways that they [have] to try to lure children and their victims into trafficking situations," Thompson said.
Tallahassee Police cracking a major child sex trafficking case in 2020 making more than 170 arrests.
They say more people need to keep an eye out for the billion-dollar industry.
With more children learning from home, experts have say predators are taking advantage.
"Unfortunately because of the pandemic, it has shown a very bright light on the challenges and the horrific exploitation that goes on around the country and even here in the Big Bend area," said Erin Collins, Executive Director of the Florida Alliance to End Human Trafficking.
In Florida, something also catching the attention of advocates.
"We're seeing numbers of labor trafficking cases going up in our state. Those cases happen and are recorded mostly out of the hospitality industry as well as agriculture and farming, "said Thompson.
As more light is shed on the trafficking they want people to know what they can do to get help.
"The national human trafficking hotline is available 247/365," said Collins.
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