Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Gov. Scott kicks off human trafficking summit at USF

TAMPA — Before a crowded auditorium of University of South Florida students, Gov. Rick Scott spoke of the alarming scourge of human trafficking on the Sunshine State.

He cited data, including the oft-repeated statistic that Florida ranks third in the nation in cases of human trafficking. It is a unique problem, the governor said, one that demands the wrath of aggressive legislation and enforcement.

"You just can't imagine how anybody does this to another human being," he said.

Scott led a queue of state law enforcement officials, including Attorney General Pam Bondi, and others who on Thursday morning kicked off the annual Human Trafficking Summit at USF's Marshall Student Center.

The daylong summit, organized by the Department of Juvenile Justice, featured an assortment of panels and speakers whose stated mission was to bring attention to the issue, with an emphasis on combatting the problem in Florida.

The governor noted efforts the state has already made to fight the problem, including the signing earlier this year of two bills focusing on human trafficking. The new laws will, among other things, allow victims to petition courts to have human-trafficking-related arrests expunged from their criminal records.

He praised Bondi, who has made combatting human trafficking a top priority of state law enforcement in recent years.

"Three years ago, no one was listening," Bondi said. "I didn't know how bad it was, even as a prosecutor."

In kicking off the summit, Scott honored a handful of people whose efforts he said have had a major impact on what he insisted is a dire problem affecting the state.

Among them was Telisia Espinoza, who told her story of being forced into a life of prostitution as a young woman. Scott also presented a handful of awards, including the summit's law enforcement officer of the year award, which went to Orlando police Sgt. Patrick Guckian, who has spearheaded anti-human-trafficking efforts with his agency.

Though Bondi and others have emphasized Florida's status as a magnet for human traffickers and their victims, state officials acknowledge that the actual extent of the problem is difficult to gauge.

"We don't really have an understanding of the extent of the problem," said Gerald Bailey, commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. "We don't have consistent data."

Bailey added that statistical efforts to better assess the prevalence of human trafficking are under way.

Gov. Scott kicks off human trafficking summit at USF 10/03/13 [Last modified: Thursday, October 3, 2013 10:38pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Peter Budaj, Lightning lose to Devils in shootout; Nikita Kucherov scores

    Lightning Strikes

    NEWARK, N.J. — For Peter Budaj, Tuesday's season debut had a shaky start.

    The Lightning’s Vladislav Namestnikov, right, battles Damon Severson for the puck.
  2. Mother's testimony about toddler's death brings judge to tears

    Criminal

    TAMPA — Nayashia Williams woke up early on May 7, 2014, to the sound of her daughter calling for her. It was the last time the young mother's mornings would begin with a summons from Myla Presley, who couldn't yet climb over the mesh fencing around the playpen she used as a bed.

    Deandre Gilmore looks towards the gallery Tuesday in a Tampa courtroom. Gilmore is accused of killing the 19 month-old daughter of his girlfriend in 2014. He said the child fell while he was giving her a bath. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  3. Speakers: Getting tough can't be only response to teen car thefts

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — Bob Dillinger remembers coming to Pinellas County as a legal intern in 1975. There were five major poverty zones in St. Petersburg.

    Wengay Newton, Florida House of Representatives (in front, in center), talks as a panelist to a packed room during a community forum on "Reclaiming our Youth: Is Juvenile Justice a Reality?" at the Dr. Carter G. Woodson Museum in St. Petersburg Wednesday evening (10/17/17). The event was presented by the Fred G. Minnis, Sr. Bar Association. Community leaders discussed the ongoing auto theft epidemic among Pinellas youth.
  4. Internal White House documents allege manufacturing decline increases abortions, infertility and spousal abuse

    Politics

    White House officials working on trade policy were alarmed last month when a top adviser to President Donald Trump circulated a two-page document that alleged a weakened manufacturing sector leads to an increase in abortion, spousal abuse, divorce and infertility, two people familiar with the matter told the …

  5. Black entrepreneur says city stiffing him on project after he endorsed Rick Baker

    News

    ST. PETERSBURG — A prominent African-American resident says his endorsement of mayoral candidate Rick Baker has led city officials to freeze him out of a major construction project along the historic "Deuces" stretch of 22nd Street S.