Written by Anne Childers
The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, community businesses leaders, and concerned citizens are coming together January 20, 2018 for the third annual Light Up the Night to focus a spotlight on the exploitation of human beings for commercial sex, forced labor, or involuntary servitude.
Light Up the Night, sponsored by the David Maus Foundation, will feature a 5K Race/Walk at Pasco Hernando State College Porter Campus followed by the main event at The Shops at Wiregrass, upper level parking deck. Educational materials, music, vendors, a kid’s zone, and a concert will make this occasion enjoyable for all ages. The Race begins at 4:30pm and the live concert begins at 6:00pm. .
Human Trafficking is the second largest criminal enterprise worldwide, ranking only behind illegal drugs and netting billions of dollars annually. It is estimated between 500,000 and 2 million individuals are trafficked annually worldwide with an estimated 15,000 to 18,000 being trafficked in the United States every year.
Sadly, the #1 consumer of human trafficking is the United States of America. The state of Florida is #3 in the nation as a destination for the innocent victims of these despicable crimes, and the Tampa Bay area ranks between 2nd and 3rd in the state.
Traffickers frequently target children, boys and girls, between the ages of 12-14, and most of these children are American citizens. The average age of survival in this brutal environment is seven years. If and when a child is rescued from the lifestyle, rehabilitation in a safe house is a long term investment financially and emotionally. Proceeds from Light Up The Night will benefit six local non-profits dedicated to the recovery of trafficked individuals.
Plan to attend and learn what you personally can do to recognize victims right here in our own communities. Force, fraud, and/or coercion are most often used to control a victim. Possible indications of human trafficking include, but are not limited to:
• Constantly accompanied by a controlling person or boss
• Bruises, depression, fear, overly submissive
• Lack of control over personal schedule, money, identification, or travel documents
• Transported to and from work, lives and works in the same place.
• Debt owed to employer/crew leader, unable to leave job
If you think you have come into contact with a victim of human trafficking, do not become involved personally, but do call one of the professional services trained to recognize and rescue victims.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888, The U.S. Department of Justice Hotline at 1-888-428-7581, the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE (22873), the local Clearwater/Tampa Bay Area Task Force Hotline at (727)562-4917 or 911. Pasco FREE, (pascoFREE@gmail.com) is accepting members. Email for details, and anyone wishing to share information with this publication may send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.