Saturday, February 24, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Florida smartly fights human trafficking

Florida has smartly adopted a balanced approach to fighting human trafficking. Gov. Rick Scott signed two bills into law that provide more resources for victims and increase penalties for crimes against children. As the issue of human trafficking becomes more visible in the state and worldwide, this is the best course of action to reduce cases of these egregious crimes.

The new laws expand on the Safe Harbor Act passed earlier this year that redefines children involved with trafficking as victims rather than criminals. One empowers the state to rehabilitate victims by delivering an additional $1.5 million to safe houses. It also calls for better assessment of the children and special training for employees. Under this law, caretakers will be able to better address the needs of victims, many of whom enter safe houses in need of intensive drug and physical treatment and mental health counseling.

The second new law increases penalties for those who exploit children and profit from prostitution, prohibits minors from working in adult theaters and allows victims to expunge certain offenses.

The alarming prevalence of trafficking in Florida — from child labor to sexual exploitation — calls for emergency action. South Florida is the third-busiest area for sex trafficking in the United States, according to the U.S. Justice Department. And the state ranks third in the country for calls to a national trafficking hotline.

Since 2009, the Tampa FBI field office has rescued nearly 200 juveniles in a jurisdiction that covers 18 counties. In Pinellas County, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri formed a special victims unit this year to crack down on human trafficking and sex exploitation cases. Most recently, six children from the Tampa Bay area were rescued in the last week as part of an annual nationwide crackdown on child trafficking. In the eight years the operation has been running, nearly 3,600 children have been rescued, the FBI said.

Human trafficking is a highly complex issue, and law enforcement officials are moving forward to find the most effective ways to address it. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who helped push the reforms through the Legislature and has made human trafficking a priority, said educating the public about the signs of trafficking is one of the most effective preventive steps. Her office has been working with groups such as truck drivers and emergency room physicians to learn how to identify victims and seek help. "It's a different type of service that we're going to be rendering," Bondi said told the Times editorial board. "These children have lived in the shadows for so many years."

Above all, state officials should continue to educate the public about this issue and to spend money on services proven to help young victims so that those rescued from their captors have a shot at reclaiming their lives and escaping from a world few Florida families can comprehend.

Comments
Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Gov. Rick Scott and key members of the Florida Legislature offered ambitious proposals Friday that would plug some holes in the state’s safety net, strengthen school security and spend up to a half-billion dollars in response to last week’s massacre ...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Enough is enough. The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has renewed conversations about gun control in Washington and Tallahassee. Young people are demanding action, and there are cracks in the National Rifle Association’s solid w...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

The nation’s conversation on guns took an encouraging step this week in three essential places — South Florida, Tallahassee and Washington — as survivors, victims’ families and elected leaders searched painfully and sincerely for common ground after ...
Published: 02/22/18

Editorial: FDLE probe of state fair fiasco falls short

It should go without saying that Florida law frowns upon public officials who take freebies from vendors and whose agency throws business to their family. But that wasn’t enough to move the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to find that the ex-di...
Published: 02/21/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Published: 02/21/18

Editorial: Nursing home rule should be stronger

It shouldn’t take months or another tragedy for Florida — which is hot and full of seniors — to protect its elderly population from heat stroke in the event of an emergency. That’s why Gov. Rick Scott had the right idea last year in calling for nursi...
Published: 02/20/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.’’ A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he won’t raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trump’s claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nation’s 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trump’s rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trump’s rising deficits and misplaced priorities

It’s not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18