1. News
  2. /
  3. Hillsborough

Hillsborough forms Commission on Human Trafficking

The new commission is the latest in a string of initiatives aimed at snuffing out human trafficking ahead of upcoming events like WrestleMania in April and the Super Bowl in 2021.
Hillsborough County Commissioner Kimberly Overman is spearheading anti-human trafficking efforts. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
Hillsborough County Commissioner Kimberly Overman is spearheading anti-human trafficking efforts. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
Published Dec. 4, 2019

TAMPA — Weeks after a human trafficking sting netted more than 100 arrests in Hillsborough County, commissioners took a step Wednesday to eradicate forced labor, domestic servitude and sexual exploitation within its borders.

Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution to create the first Hillsborough County Commission on Human Trafficking, modeled after a similar one in Pasco. The 14-member board will consist of appointees from the county commission, Sheriff’s Office, school district, aviation authority, hotel and motel association and state attorney’s office, as well as the Tampa Police, Port Authority, Visit Tampa Bay and local hospitals, religious institutions and victim advocacy groups.

Related: RELATED: Number of sexually-oriented businesses in Pasco drops after county passes ordinance

The new commission is the latest in a string of efforts spearheaded by first-term Commissioner Kimberly Overman to snuff out human trafficking enterprises before Hillsborough hosts two mega events often tied to increases in such activity: Super Bowl LV in February 2021 and the World Wrestling Entertainment’s WrestleMania 2020 in April.

Related: RELATED: Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office sweep results in more than 80 arrests, one human trafficking charge

During this year’s Super Bowl in Atlanta, local authorities reported making 169 arrests over 11 days on human trafficking-related charges including sex trafficking, lewd and lascivious behavior and sexual acts with minors, according to the statewide Council on Human Trafficking.

“Typically, whenever you have any large-scale event like that you’re going to get people from all over the world, from all walks of life coming here – some for legitimate purposes to enjoy whatever event it is and some for not-so legitimate purposes,” Hillsborough Sheriff’s Col. James Bradford said outside Wednesday’s county commission meeting.

“I think this group is going to do a lot just by getting more of our local partners together, whether they’re from law enforcement, the social services community, or local businesses so we can all work together to spread awareness. The more eyes we have out there, the more success we’ll have.”

Advocacy groups have long named the Tampa Bay area as one of the top destinations in the nation for human trafficking, according to the sheriff’s office. Last year, the National Human Trafficking Hotline reported that Florida was the third highest state in the nation in numbers of calls to the emergency hotline.

Related: RELATED: Human trafficking sting in Hillsborough nets more than 100 arrests

Those numbers prompted Governor Ron DeSantis to pass new legislation in June requiring that all hotel and motel workers receive training on how to identify and report human trafficking activity. The sweeping new law also requires state law enforcement to maintain a “sex trafficking database” of convicted buyers and sellers. Names stay in the database for five years on a first offense, the law says. If there’s a second human trafficking conviction, an individual will be permanently listed in the database.

The commission is meant to serve as an umbrella organization for the many anti-human trafficking efforts already established in Hillsborough County. Overman said the group’s goal will be to promote public awareness and sponsor educational programs at local schools, hotels, businesses and summer camps that teach the public how to recognize indicators that someone may be a victim.

The group will also advocate for state and federal support to aid rescued victims, Overman said.

“Part of the reason why we need a commission is so we have more folks at the table,” she said.


  1. Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputy Alton Smith helps recover items Wednesday from Lake Twitt in Odessa during a dive team practice. Divers used the drill to search for evidence of a forgotten African American cemetery nearby. [CHRIS URSO   |  Times]
    Keystone Memorial Cemetery was established by a freed slave and disappeared in the 1950s. The dive team chose Lake Twitt to do its monthly practice.
  2. More than 44 percent of people who searched on for the Tampa Bay area from June to December were outside the region, according to a report from Apartment List. Percentages in the “Top Three Sources” box represent the share of searches coming from outside the metro area. (Apartment List map) [Apartment List]
    The region trails only Denver, Baltimore and San Diego for the percentage of people from outside the area searching for apartments on Apartment List.
  3. Facebook user Cornelius King posted this warning on November 19, 2019. Hillsborough County Sheriff says it is a hoax, but the viral message continues to spread online. [Facebook screenshot]
    A viral post encourages Florida drivers to run over people they see in the street to avoid being attacked.
  4. The sale of Tampa-based WellCare Health Plans to Centene Corp. is expected to close Thursday, the companies said on Wednesday. [File photo]
    The companies said Wednesday they have satisfied all regulatory approvals, including with the U.S. Department of Justice, for the merger to close.
  5. A bank vault that's in the basement of the old Franklin Exchange Bank building in downtown Tampa. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    Owner Carolyn Wilson hopes to keep alive the rich local history in the old downtown buildings she owns.
  6. Yesterday• Hillsborough
    Lynn Cristina is a Wesley Chapel momma with two girls and works full time as a marketing manager. [Courtesy of Lynn Cristina]
    There’s nothing like a cathartic breakdown in the Starbucks drive-thru to help a mom gain some perspective.
  7. Doug Bakke announced this week he’s leaving the race for Hillsborough County Clerk of Court. [Courtesy of Doug Bakke]
    A 26-year veteran of the clerk’s office, Bakke is chief deputy and head of the criminal division, but has not been heavily involved in politics.
  8. Addison Davis, the superintendent of Clay County District Schools, was chosen Tuesday as the new Hillsborough County school superintendent. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    The School Board’s vote is unanimous for Davis, who calls himself “an accelerator.”
  9. Smoke from the Levy County controlled burn travelled across three counties in order to reach Hillsborough. []
    Commuters saw the smokey, hazy skies as they drove home. Strong southern winds are carrying the smoke from a prescribed fire in Levy County.
  10. Joseph Hernandez Hall is home to the University of Florida's chemistry department, where a faculty member recently resigned after officials discovered he failed to disclose his strong ties to China. While at UF, the faculty member also held positions at two Chinese universities, including vice president and dean. The faculty member was not named in a report obtained Tuesday from the Florida Legislature. [University of Florida]
    They also collected grant money from the U.S. government while never disclosing their outside work in China.