A Presidential Proclamation in 2010 designated January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month with January 11 as National Human Trafficking Day.
While the United Nations estimates the human trafficking issue affects more than 40 million victims, the Florida Alliance to End Human Trafficking reports that Florida ranks third in the nation for human trafficking crimes with more than 1,800 victims statewide.
Okaloosa County is itself a trafficking target due to high tourism. The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office notes the stretch of Northwest Florida along main roads like Interstate 10 is rampant for human trafficking—especially victims averaging between 12 and 14 years old.
Those numbers are just the “reported” incidents—not all are done so due to fear, a family member offender, inability to reach help, etc. Unfortunately, the issue is escalating.
Mitzi Henley, OCCSW Public Outreach Committee Chair, advises that “Prevention is where we must be aggressive. Along with urging awareness, we are working to educate the community. We must also teach our children the tools to learn about this activity and how to protect themselves.”
If you need help or believe someone else does, call one of the following:
Emerald Coast Crime Stoppers at 850-863-TIPS (8477)
Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office: 850-833-9200
Florida Law Enforcement: 855-FLA-SAFE (855-352-7233)
A staff writer for Emerald Coast Connected, June is (to quote her husband) “Like a fine old car driven beyond her warranty”. June, however, says she simply loves life and believes in finding the loving heartbeat of her community and enjoying the ride.