Florida enlists help from businesses against human trafficking

4:44 PM, May 7, 2013   |    comments
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Tallahassee, Florida - One frightening estimate shows Florida ranks third in the nation in human trafficking. It's described as modern-day slavery that forces people, often runaway teens, into jobs or prostitution to pay off a large debt.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi says she won't tolerate it.

On Tuesday, Bondi unveiled a new effort to combat human trafficking that enlists the help of Florida businesses. The campaign is designed to give businesses a toolkit of ideas to help spot trafficking and take action against it.

Bondi says businesses have a unique vantage point allowing employees to recognize the signs of human trafficking.

"We have developed a zero-tolerance human trafficking toolkit to assist businesses with creating their own policies on how to eradicate human trafficking and be our eyes and our ears throughout the state of Florida."

Mary Lou Rajchel of the Florida Trucking Association says trucking companies will support the effort.

"We have drivers who are on the highways, on the roads of our state, and in many ways those are eyes and ears that are going to be very, very important to the identification of this problem and the potential eradication of it."

Richard Turner of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association echoed those sentiments.

"The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association by joining this group and Attorney General Bondi will begin to make our members aware of indicators that human trafficking is going on within their domains and we need to eradicate this problem not only here in Florida but throughout our nation."

Terry Coonan of Florida State's Center for the Advancement of Human Rights says immigrants are often targets of human trafficking.

They are smuggled into the country and saddled with huge debts by the smuggler and they feel they cannot leave the job as a result.

"What we've seen in cases here in Florida are international victims whose documents have been taken from them. Immigrants who perhaps owed debts as much as sometimes $40,000 or $50,000 to a smuggler who has brought them in, who still controls them, in terms of that person is a victim if in fact they can't walk away from that job if they owe that money to a particular person."

Last year Florida passed legislation creating stiffer criminal penalties for human trafficking. Now Bondi wants to team up with the private sector to attack the problem from another vantage point.

Dave Heller

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