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Crisis Center of Tampa Bay wants to help people recognize human trafficking

Two people whose faces are not shown, sit in the bed of a pickup truck, their legs dangling and their jeans dirty.
Courtesy U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services
The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay is giving a free webinar to help people recognize human trafficking, so they can report it.

It's Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and Crisis Center President and CEO Clara Reynolds said it doesn't always play out the way you may have seen it in the movies.

The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay is giving a free webinar to help people recognize human trafficking, so they can report it.

According to the Florida Alliance to End Human Trafficking, Florida is the third-highest state for human trafficking cases and second for labor trafficking cases.

Crisis Center CEO Clara Reynolds said it's generally not like in movies where someone is grabbed off the street.

"One of the things that we have seen here at the Crisis Center, particularly in the past six months, are family members who are trafficking other family members because of dire financial situations within the household," she said.

She said control and power dynamics are often at play, especially with young people who have questionable immigration status.

"Certainly, you know, those are individuals that can be quote unquote, groomed for trafficking, where they're vulnerable because they are trying to secure food, clothing, shelter, basic needs. But then there's also those vulnerable individuals who are just looking for love and affection," she said.

Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister said in the past three months alone, more than 120 people have been arrested for human trafficking. And the HCSO rescued more than two dozen victims of human trafficking.

Reynolds said many of the victims of human trafficking self-identify by calling 211 or 988 for the Crisis Center. Or they come in for a rape exam or counseling.

And she said language is not a barrier to helping people.

"Not only do we have staff that are bilingual, but we also have access to a language line with over 250 different languages and dialects available. So we're able to provide that level of communication to anybody in our communities, regardless of their immigration status, or their language, their native language," she said.

Service is available around the clock.

Reynolds said Hillsborough County Commissioners helped to fund the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay's Human Trafficking Care Coordinator, Stephanie Barona.

She will be one of the hosts for the "Human Trafficking: See the Signs and Take Action" virtual training via Zoom on Tuesday, Jan. 23rd, starting at 5:30 p.m. You can register here.

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