Some Officials 'Frustrated' With Anti-Human Trafficking Efforts So Far, Hope To Do More

Mar 25, 2016

Attorney General Pam Bondi (right) speaking during Monday's Statewide Council on Human Trafficking meeting, while Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Mike Carroll listens.
Credit Florida Channel

As Florida’s Human Trafficking Council continues working to combat modern day slavery, some members say they’re frustrated with how long it’s taking to implement solutions.

Attorney General Pam Bondi leads the 15-member Statewide Council on Human Trafficking. During a recent meeting, she outlined what’s been done so far.

“In its first full year, of course, the council heard many presentations,” she said. “It provoked discussion, and it helped us to get a better understanding of the problem of human trafficking and provided us with information for the coming year.”

But, she admits she’s also disappointed in the progress.

“Frankly, during the end of the year, I was a bit frustrated, and I think probably many of you were,” Bondi added. “And, I guess you have to do this sometimes: we talk about the problems a lot without coming to solutions. I think last year we were planning our work but this year, we’re committed to working our plan. And, that’s what we’re going to see, and I know it takes time to do that.”

The council is divided into three areas: services and resources, legislative and special initiatives, and criminal justice. The services and resources sub-panel is led by Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Mike Carroll. He’s also the Vice Chair of the statewide human trafficking council.

“Our biggest challenge moving forward is how do we take what’s working and how do we replicate it on a statewide basis,” Carroll asked. “We have to know the numbers. We have to understand where to put it. And, we especially need to understand—even if you replicate it—how do you begin building that continuity of care that’s so important for these victims as they travel through our service delivery system?”

Carroll says he too has been frustrated. One area he’d like to see improve is the ability to better track human trafficking.

“We continue to be challenged at our ability to arrive at reliable data and prevalence, as tips and calls to the abuse hotline do not actually correlate to the actual number of human trafficking,” he added. “The public and media may identify a crime as human trafficking, but there may not be enough evidence to charge, prosecute, and convict. So, we have many calls that come into the hotline, where human trafficking is suspected but that doesn’t mean that they’re all verified.”

But, Carroll says it’s not all bad. He says his agency is working with the Department of Juvenile Justice. That agency uses a screening tool to aid in human trafficking prevention efforts. Carroll says it’s helped in tracking victims.

And, DJJ Secretary Christy Daly says her agency is just wrapping up its first full year of using the Human Trafficking Screening Tool. Victims are asked a series of questions looking into different areas of their background as a way to identify them as a potential human trafficking victim. That includes if they’ve ever ran away, felt threatened, or pressured into sexual activity.

Daly says so far, about 2,500 kids have been screened.

“Just under 1,300 of those resulted in a call to the abuse hotline, with an acceptance rate of 52 percent,” she said. “Of the calls made, 576 were accepted. And, this to me, you know, really tells us that we are really identifying the right kids to call in. Of the accepted calls, 41 percent were for males. And, about 60 percent were for females.”

Daly says she’s continuing to look into ways to improve the tool and is expanding its use to other providers, like the Pace Center for Girls.

The next council meeting will focus on the legislative and special initiatives subcommittee.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.