Authorities at the forefront of the battle against human trafficking

PORT CHARLOTTE – Law enforcement agencies in Florida are bringing awareness to the problem of human trafficking.The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office recently shared a map on its social media page, highlighting the areas in Florida where cases of reported missing individuals involved in sex or labor trafficking have been prevalent.

The map highlights Miami and Tampa as significant hubs for reported cases, with Sarasota, Charlotte, and Lee Counties forming a connection between them.

According to a post, Florida is ranked third highest in the US for reported human trafficking cases. Additionally, Charlotte County is located on a major through-route between Miami and Tampa, known as Tamiami Trail.

The Collier County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) highlighted that January 11th marked National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, an important day in raising awareness about this critical issue. It is worth noting that the entire month of January is dedicated to National Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

State Attorney General Ashley Moody showed her support for the cause of the day by making a visit to Tampa General Hospital, further up the west coast.

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Moody extended a warm welcome to TGH during their visit, recognizing their membership in the “100 Percent Club.” This club consists of businesses that provide training to their employees on identifying and reporting potential human trafficking victims.

According to Moody, human trafficking inflicts harm on its victims in multiple ways, often leading them to seek medical attention during their period of captivity. He commended TGH for taking a proactive approach, which he believes sets a crucial example in our ongoing mission to safeguard victims, combat trafficking, and bring traffickers to justice. Moody expressed these sentiments during a news conference held on Thursday.

According to the Attorney General’s office, there have been several studies conducted on the subject of crime.

According to the information provided, it states that a staggering 88% of individuals who fall victim to human trafficking are in contact with the healthcare system while they are being trafficked.

John Couris, the president and CEO of TGH, expressed his organization’s gratitude for being part of the club’s initiatives to combat human trafficking.

During the press conference, Couris emphasized the importance of providing our team with the necessary information and training to effectively respond when encountering a victim. He highlighted the significance of engaging law enforcement to promptly address the situation.

TGH representatives have reported that the hospital sees over 780,000 patients annually. The hospital boasts a staff of approximately 10,000, which now includes the newly added Clinical Education Department.

In 2022, TGH became the first hospital in Florida to receive recognition from the 100 Percent Club, an organization established by the AG’s office.

On the same day that Moody arrived at TGH, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement made an announcement about the arrest of Todd William Backer, a resident of Arcadia. Backer was allegedly involved in at least two instances of human trafficking.

Law enforcement and aid agencies emphasize that although some victims of trafficking are forcibly taken, there are many others who may appear to be leading ordinary lives within their communities or elsewhere in the country. In these cases, their traffickers exert control by holding their debts, access to resources, or paperwork over their heads.

CCSO shared a post on social media highlighting several signs to be aware of for potential human trafficking.

• Someone displaying signs of poor mental health or unusual behavior.

• Someone who avoids making eye contact.

• Someone who does not have control over their own money or identification documents.

• Someone who is unable or not permitted to communicate on their own behalf (a third party might insist on their presence and/or acting as a translator).

• Someone who lacks self-control.

• A person who possesses few or no personal belongings.

• If an individual exhibits indications of physical and/or sexual abuse, physical restraint, confinement, or torture.

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