Human trafficking is a major problem in the United States, but for some states, it’s worse. For instance, Texas is the second-highest state for the number of cases reported. And following Texas is Florida.
According to Florida Alliance to End Human Trafficking, it’s the third-highest state for human trafficking cases. And it ranks second for labor trafficking cases.
But what’s the difference between human and labor trafficking? To understand key details about this issue in Florida, we first need to know how the state defines these different forms of criminal activity. Thankfully, Florida’s Department of Children and Families helps with this.
According to the department, sex trafficking is a commercial sex act that involves force, fraud, or coercion. It also includes scenarios where someone influences a minor to perform such acts. Examples of commercial sex acts include prostitution and/or pornography for the trafficker to profit.
The department defines labor trafficking as the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services. Again, this may also be through force, fraud, or coercion. It’s often to subject the victim to involuntary servitude, peonage (someone gets held against their will to pay off a debt), debt bondage, or slavery.
These include situations where an employer exploits their workers who are vulnerable due to any of the following reasons…
High rates of unemployment
Cultural acceptance of the practice
Domestic servitude victims typically have an informal place of work, such as in the home. Since authorities can’t inspect these informal and private workplaces as easily as formal workplaces, these instances are more likely to go under the radar.
Now that you know how the state defines these key terms, how bad are these issues? Like I already mentioned, it ranks third for reported human trafficking cases and second for reported labor trafficking cases.
These figures are concerning, but that’s stating the obvious. The good news is that cases do get reported. This means that people are recognizing instances when they occur. When they report the situations, it makes it easier for authorities to handle them and develop laws that address the problem.
Let’s take a look at Florida human trafficking statistics and some of the efforts to resolve the issue.
Table of Contents
Cases and Arrests
Trafficking Venues/Industries in Florida
Top Venues/Industries for Labor Trafficking
Top Venues/Industries for Sex Trafficking
Laws and Regulations
Council to Combat Trafficking
Florida is one of the three worst states for rates and reported cases of trafficked victims. There are 4.08 cases per 100k people. (World Population Review)
Traffickers don’t discriminate against who they target. (National Human Trafficking Hotline) Victims include…
Human trafficking is now the second most common criminal activity behind the illegal drug trade. (Stop Human Trafficking)
There are around 20.9 million people enslaved throughout the world. (Stop Human Trafficking)
Since the enactment of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865, ALL slavery is illegal in the US, including human trafficking. (Stop Human Trafficking)
Half of all trafficking victims in the state are minors. (Florida Health)
In 2019, 734 human trafficking cases involved females, 125 cases involved males, and 3 cases involved gender minorities. (National Human Trafficking Hotline)
564 cases involved adults and 172 cases involved minors.
133 cases were foreign nationals and 82 were US citizens or lawful permanent residents.
The average age that a trafficked victim is first used for commercial sex is 12 to 14 years old. (WFLA)
Other victims are as young as nine years old.
Cases and Arrests
Since any type of slavery is a crime in the US, traffickers face prosecution when caught. In some cases, victims make reports themselves. And other times, people notice that someone else is a victim and make a report on that person’s behalf.
When others send these tips to authorities, law enforcement can find traffickers and arrest them at higher rates. This eventually leads to victims getting freed from their traffickers. Over the past several years, reports have led to several federal court cases.
According to the National Human Trafficking Hotline, since 2007, there have been…
14,906 total contacts
4,636 total cases
5,844 moderate total victims
6,568 high total victims
Contacts include phone calls, texts, online chats, emails, and webforms received by the National Human Trafficking Hotline that referenced Florida. “Moderate” cases contain human trafficking indicators or resemble common trafficking scenarios, but lack core details of force, fraud, or coercion. And “high” cases contain a high level of trafficking indicators.
The total cases in 2007 led law enforcement to more than 12,400 victims across the state. (WFLA)
The National Human Trafficking Hotline also reported that in 2019 alone, there were…
896 reported human trafficking cases
These total trafficking reports included…
640 sex trafficking cases
128 labor trafficking cases
82 unspecified trafficking cases
46 sex and labor trafficking cases
The cases in 2019 led to the identification of more than 600 trafficking businesses. (WFLA)
12 new criminal human trafficking cases got filed in federal courts in 2020. (Human Trafficking Institute)
Seven defendants received positive convictions.
95% of active defendants got charged with sex trafficking.
5% got charged with forced labor.
Four out of six convicted defendants had to pay restitution to their victim(s).
Trafficking Venues/Industries in Florida
Top Venues/Industries For Labor Trafficking
Of the 128 cases related to labor trafficking cases reported in 2019, there were five popular tactics to hide victims in different industries. (National Human Trafficking Hotline)
The breakdown included...
19 Domestics Work cases
15 Agriculture cases
11 Traveling Sales Crew cases
11 Construction cases
8 Restaurants/Food Service cases
Top Venues/Industries For Sex Trafficking
Of the 640 reported sex trafficking cases in 2019, traffickers also hid victims in various venues and industries. (Human Trafficking Hotline)
This breakdown included...
146 Illicit Massage/Spa Business cases
55 Residence-Based Commercial Sex cases
41 Hotel/Motel-Based cases
35 Pornography cases
35 Online Ad, Venue Unknown cases
Laws and Regulations
Because Florida is the third-highest for human trafficking reports, it’s taking action to help solve the issue. Some laws are preventative, such as requiring training for lodging companies. Others have included the development of programs for identifying victims and helping them once they’re free from traffickers. Florida also clearly defines the consequences of the criminal activity.
In 2019, Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law human trafficking legislation that affects lodging operations.
Section 509.096 in the state’s law includes mandatory human trafficking awareness training for lodging companies. These companies must train all employees who perform housekeeping duties, work at the front desk, or work in the reception areas.
A lodging company that goes above and beyond would also train other positions that interact with guests such as the concierge, bell staff, and valet.
Council to Combat Trafficking
The Attorney General’s office has a 15-member Council chaired by Attorney General Moody which went into effect in 2014. Members of the council include law enforcement officers, prosecutors, legislators, and experts in the health industry, education industry, and social services industry.
The council builds on state and local partnerships to work on Florida’s dilemma. Its mission is to support victims by enhancing available care options.
The council’s duties include...
Making recommendations for programs and services including making certifications for safe houses and safe foster homes.
Making recommendations for capturing and prosecuting traffickers and improving the coordination between the different groups that respond to cases
Holding an annual statewide summit discussing policies with institutions of higher education.
Working with the Department of Children and Families to create and maintain human trafficking programs and services in Florida.
Developing overall policy recommendations.
Luckily, traffickers do get arrested and prosecuted by the courts. Florida’s laws outline the punishments that result from this illegal behavior.
In Florida, human trafficking for labor or commercial sex services is a first-degree felony with a Level 7, 8, or 9 offense severity level. (Law Office of Armando J. Hernandez)
These convictions are punishable by imprisonment for up to 30 years and a maximum fine of $10,000.
Human trafficking of a child or disabled person for commercial sex services is a life felony with a Level 10 offense severity level. (Law Office of Armando J. Hernandez)
Punishment includes life imprisonment and a maximum fine of $10,000.
Forcing another person to work, selling people, or sex trafficking children results in the punishment of life in federal prison. (Law Office of Armando J. Hernandez)
Kidnapping someone for slavery or holding a person or selling them in involuntary servitude has a maximum federal prison term of 20 years. (Law Office of Armando J. Hernandez)
Using coercion for labor or services or commercial sex activity is a first-degree felony. (Florida Courts)
First-degree felonies include punishment of up to 30 years in prison, 30 years of probation, and $10,000 in fines. (Hornsby Law Firm)
All Florida human trafficking offenses may face prosecution as RICO offenses as organized crime. (Florida Courts)
RICO is the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations law (Justia)
Due to its high rates and the number of reported cases in Florida, it’s one of the top three worst states for human trafficking. The situation can impact anyone. People as young as nine years old become victims, and traffickers don’t discriminate against who they target.
Because of these alarming Florida human trafficking statistics, the state is making efforts to improve the situation. It continues to pass new laws that address the problem, such as through training programs and professional councils.
People must recognize human trafficking instances and make the reports. This is why the state focuses so much on both employee training and programs that will help victims. That way, it makes it easier for law enforcement to catch and convict more traffickers so that rates will eventually decrease.
As such, the Tampa Bay area, being one of Florida's largest metropolitan areas, bears a large share of the state's illicit human labor trade.What area in Florida has the highest human trafficking? ›
As such, the Tampa Bay area, being one of Florida's largest metropolitan areas, bears a large share of the state's illicit human labor trade.What groups are most at risk for trafficking? ›
Who is Vulnerable? Human trafficking can happen to anyone but some people are more vulnerable than others. Significant risk factors include recent migration or relocation, substance use, mental health concerns, involvement with the children welfare system and being a runaway or homeless youth.Which four 4 states present with the most verified human trafficking crimes? ›
|#||State||Human Trafficking Cases|
system identified as victims of sex trafficking are Black. Of those, 62% were from the child welfare system. Not only are Black girls overrepresented in foster care, but they are structurally disadvantaged by systematic racial disparities within the foster care system.What are the 3 types of red flags and indicators of human trafficking? ›
- Living with employer.
- Poor living conditions.
- Multiple people in cramped space.
- Inability to speak to individual alone.
- Answers appear to be scripted and rehearsed.
Where is human trafficking most prevalent? According to the ILO's latest data, the Asia and Pacific region has the highest number of victims of forced labor and marriage, accounting for more than half of the global total — 29.6 million.What are the top 10 cities for human trafficking? ›
- Dallas, Texas.
- San Diego, California. ...
- San Jose, California. ...
- Los Angeles, California. ...
- Chicago, Illinois. ...
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. ...
- Phoenix, Arizona. Human Trafficking Crime Rate: 0.01% ...
- New York, New York. Human Trafficking Crime Rate: 0.01% ...
Children account for half of the victims of human trafficking. In fact, the average age that a young person becomes involved in sex trafficking is 12 years old.What gender is most at risk for human trafficking? ›
While boys and men are victims as well, most individuals identified as trafficked for both labor and commercial sex are women and girls. For every 10 victims detected globally, five are adult women and two are girls, according to a report released in 2021 by the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (PDF, 18MB).
Florida has a large agricultural economy and a large immigrant population, which has made it a prime environment for forced labor, particularly in the tomato industry. Also Florida's tourism industry has also helped make the state a prime target for human traffickers.What is the #1 human trafficking city in the US? ›
New York, NY. Being the most international/multi-cultural metropolis in the US, with its share of poor populations and criminal organizations, New York City is among the top hubs for human trafficking activities.Is Florida a gateway state for human trafficking? ›
According to the Human Tracking Hotline, Florida continues to rank third in the U.S. for human trafficking cases behind California and Texas. In 2021, the state had 781 cases, which is 7.54% of the U.S. total. Jan. 11 is recognized as Human Trafficking Awareness Day in the U.S.How do traffickers lure victims? ›
Many sex traffickers lure victims by providing basic survival needs. They systematically provide distorted versions of higher needs to manipulate victims. Using threats, force and coercion, traffickers exploit the fact that, for many victims, “the life” may be their first experience of 'family' and belonging.What are the 3 P's of trafficking? ›
Critically, the TVPA established the framework for the “3 P's” of the fight against human trafficking: protection, prevention, and prosecution.What are the 3 strategies used by human traffickers? ›
The 3Ps. The “3P” paradigm—prosecution, protection, and prevention—continues to serve as the fundamental framework used around the world to combat human trafficking.What is the color code for human trafficking? ›
Join Blue Campaign in raising awareness of human trafficking through social media this #WearBlueDay.What are 5 warning signs of human trafficking? ›
- Appearing malnourished.
- Showing signs of physical injuries and abuse.
- Avoiding eye contact, social interaction, and authority figures/law enforcement.
- Seeming to adhere to scripted or rehearsed responses in social interaction.
- Lacking official identification documents.
To make the signal, you hold up your open palm, tuck your thumb against it, and then close your fingers over your thumb. When the signal is given, those on the receiving end should know to check on the victim discreetly and seek emergency help if needed.Who do human traffickers target? ›
There is no single profile of a trafficking victim. Victims of human trafficking can be anyone—regardless of race, color, national origin, disability, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, socioeconomic status, education level, or citizenship status.
- Feel pressured by their employer to stay in a job or situation they want to leave.
- Owe money to an employer or recruiter or are not being paid what they were promised or are owed.
- Do not have control of their passport or other identity documents.
Human trafficking is a significant concern in the United States, but the situation is worse for some states. According to the Florida Alliance to End Human Trafficking, Florida ranks as the third highest state for human trafficking cases and second for labor trafficking cases.Are boys trafficked more than girls? ›
MYTH: Only girls and women are victims of human trafficking
FACT: Boys and men are just as likely to be victims of human trafficking as girls and women. However, they are less likely to be identified and reported.
In the United States, human trafficking tends to occur around international travel hubs with large immigrant populations, notably in California, Texas, and Georgia. Those trafficked include young children, teenagers, men, and women; victims can be domestic citizens or foreign nationals.How do traffickers target children? ›
Traffickers target children and adolescents for grooming, often over an extended period of time. Traffickers target vulnerable children, secure their trust, fulfill their needs, isolate them from potential support, and eventually exert total control over them, all the while working to normalize the abuse.Which group is identified as being vulnerable to trafficking by the trafficking in persons? ›
Migrant workers. Undocumented immigrants. Racial, ethnic, and other minorities. Physical or cognitive disabilities.What age group is most at risk for human trafficking? ›
Children account for half of the victims of human trafficking. In fact, the average age that a young person becomes involved in sex trafficking is 12 years old.Which of the following clients are considered vulnerable and at a higher risk for human trafficking? ›
Adults and children experiencing housing instability, homelessness, and financial instability are at higher risk of human trafficking.How do traffickers lure their victims? ›
Many sex traffickers lure victims by providing basic survival needs. They systematically provide distorted versions of higher needs to manipulate victims. Using threats, force and coercion, traffickers exploit the fact that, for many victims, “the life” may be their first experience of 'family' and belonging.Who are the predators in human trafficking? ›
Predators typically pose as children close in age to the victims and then either travel to meet the children or convince the children to perform sexual acts online. Online and in-person, pimps approach children in various ways.
The United States recognizes two primary forms of trafficking in persons: forced labor and sex trafficking.What is the most commonly identified form of trafficking? ›
- Major Forms of Trafficking in Persons.
- Bonded Labor. ...
- Debt Bondage and Involuntary Servitude Among Migrant Laborers. ...
- Involuntary Domestic Servitude. ...
- Forced Child Labor. ...
- Child Soldiers. ...
- Sex Trafficking and Prostitution.
- Children Exploited for Commercial Sex.
Factors that lead to a disproportionate risk of trafficking include: 1) history of abuse and neglect, 2) social disconnection, and 3) social stigma and exclusion. In addition, those who have experienced multiple adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are at greater risk of trafficking.What are 7 vulnerability factors for trafficking? ›
Men, women and children from a wide variety of backgrounds are victimized through sex trafficking. Vulnerability factors that make individuals more susceptible to trafficking include low self-esteem, being abused or neglected, poverty, homelessness, being in the foster care system and identifying as LGBT.How do you know if you are being targeted for human trafficking? ›
Someone may be experiencing labor trafficking or exploitation if they: Feel pressured by their employer to stay in a job or situation they want to leave. Owe money to an employer or recruiter or are not being paid what they were promised or are owed. Do not have control of their passport or other identity documents.What tricks do traffickers use? ›
- Seduction and romance.
- False job advertisements.
- Lies about educational or travel opportunities.
- Sale by family.
- Recruitment through former slaves.
- Abuse of religious beliefs.
- Forced pregnancy or sale.
Locations. Victims can be found in legal and illegal labor industries, including child care, elder care, the drug trade, massage parlors, nail and hair salons, restaurants, hotels, factories, and farms. In some cases, victims are hidden behind doors in domestic servitude in a home.