Pasco Sheriff’s Office is Raising Awareness about Human Trafficking
The crime is estimated to affect 2.5 million people in the United States alone.
The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office is serious about making sure area residents know a thing or two about human trafficking and what they can do to help stop it.
That’s why law enforcement officers from the county, region and federal government came together in Wesley Chapel recently to put on an informational workshop about the issue.
“It’s not just un-American, it’s inhuman,” Pasco County Cpl. Alan Wilkett told residents assembled for the Aug. 16 meeting. “It’s a crime not just against humanity, but against God himself. We can make a difference.”
Wilkett told attendees that the sheriff’s office and other law enforcement agencies are counting on residents to be their eyes and ears to help stop this often “invisible crime.”
Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco also called upon residents to take a stand.
“We have innocent souls in our community that are being lost right now,” Nocco said. “I promise you it can happen here and it is happening here.”
Human trafficking involves the commercial use and exploitation of people who are forced into the sex trade or other forms of servitude for the gain of another. It may involve “forced prostitution and pornography, involuntary labor, servitude and debt bondage.”
Trafficking is an international problem with an estimated 27 million people enslaved worldwide. While many of the victims in the United States are illegal immigrants, many are also American citizens, especially underage runaways, officials say. This crime has grown rapidly on the international level and is second only to the drug trade for criminal participation.
Lt. George Koder of the Clearwater Tampa Bay Task Force on Human Trafficking said the crime pulls in about $9.6 billion in profits each year for criminals.
“A person can be used over and over again,” he explained.
The best way residents can help fight this crime, Nocco said, is to pay attention to what’s going on around them.
“You know what is going on in your neighborhood,” he said. “You are the biggest partners in this. Without you, we cannot be successful.”
To learn more about human trafficking, visit the Center for Human Trafficking Awareness on the St. Petersburg College website. The site offers basic information and a web-based course on combatting human trafficking.
Pasco residents who want to take a more active role in the fight against trafficking have several options for doing so. One of the best ways, Wilkett said, is for residents to become more informed. He is available to give presentations about trafficking to groups. To find out more, call 727-834-3376.