Tallahassee Police report several open cases of human trafficking during awareness month
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - While Jan. 11 is recognized as Human Trafficking Awareness Day, the Tallahassee Police Department reported they have several open cases involving human trafficking victims.
“Human trafficking doesn’t have a certain face or a look,” said TPD Detective Tibria Howard. She said victims range in race and demographic, and it is common to see kids ages 12-17 being trafficked.
Howard said all their current cases involve victims who know and trust their perpetrator; this is also what makes it difficult to arrest criminals. “When you’re dealing with somebody you know, typically, you don’t think they’re out to put you in a bad spot,” said Howard. “They believe ‘oh I’m not a victim because it’s somebody I know.’”
In 2020, TPD announced 178 people were arrested in a large-scale human trafficking sting called Operation Stolen Innocence. Since then, the department said they’ve seen a 100 percent conviction rate of criminals in federal cases. “These investigations require a lot of effort and time,” said Howard. “They can take a few months or several years.”
Refuge House in Tallahassee said they’ve seen a “large increase” in the number of people coming forward as trafficking victims. Executive Director, Emily Mitchem, said many victims don’t believe they are being trafficked because the perpetrator is someone they trust. “In a crisis on our hotline, for example, they say ‘well it’s my boyfriend,’ and they don’t identify that person as being a trafficker,” said Mitchem.
When dealing with someone who may be a potential victim of human trafficking, Mitchem said you must be mindful of how you respond. “Don’t approach somebody with a judgmental point of view,” said Mitchem. “Those type of statements to a victim is not helpful and it can make them pull back a little bit more.”
If you know someone who may be a victim of human trafficking, you can reach out to TPD anonymously and refer them to Refuge House in Tallahassee.
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