Former state senator Maria Sachs wants the feds to step in and help stop human trafficking in Florida.
Florida has the third most cases of illegally exploiting people for the sex trade or forced labor. Orlando has the most cases in the state, Sachs said.
Sachs said she went to Washington to ask Florida’s house and senate delegations for support.
She compared the task force model to federal drug enforcement under her former boss, the late Janet Reno. The former U.S. attorney was Florida state attorney at the time.
Local law enforcement is doing their best to identify and arrest perpetrators and rescue victims, she said. “But we need help and we need to do more. You have to have boots on the ground. It’s getting worse every month.” It took Florida until 2004 to pass a law making human trafficking illegal, she said.
Who are the victims? “Many times, people see an ad and come willingly to work,” she said. Once here, they’re forced into modern day slavery.
Young girls run away from abusive homes, then run out of money. They’ll get into a mini-van when a motherly lure offers them something to eat, she said. “They’re put in the back room and the door is nailed shut,” she said. “They’re used in the sex trade.”
Some even have bar codes tattooed on their neck to show who owns them and where to return them, she added.
Entire villages of girls are kidnapped in Mexico and offered online, she said. An agent showed her sex ads for 11- and 12-year-olds on his cell phone. “You pay on PayPal, then go to a hotel or motel. This is going on right under our noses,” Sachs said.
By Marci Shatzman