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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Pinellas sheriff plans special unit to combat human trafficking

Law enforcement authorities are planning to shift more resources to what they say has emerged as a growing — and disturbing — criminal enterprise in Pinellas County.

More and more, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said, young women are being corralled into prostitution rings against their will.

These girls, usually runaways, are forced to dance in strip clubs then pimped out at nearby hotels, Gualtieri said.

"We had one two nights ago. She's 15 years old," Gualtieri told county commissioners during a workshop Wednesday. "It is becoming a very significant problem."

Because of that, the sheriff is starting a "special victims unit" to focus just on local human trafficking. The unit will be composed of five deputies and a sergeant and start in July.

Gualtieri plans to shift deputies from other positions, so there will be no additional cost for the new unit.

Full report here.

[Last modified: Friday, June 7, 2013 5:23pm]

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