Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is a crime against a person. It does not have to involve travel, transportation or border crossings. The federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 outlines trafficking under two main headings:

Sex Trafficking:
the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age. (22 USC § 7102)

Labor Trafficking:
the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery. (22 USC § 7102)

Florida Statute § 787.06 defines human trafficking as the transporting, soliciting, recruiting, harboring, providing, enticing, maintaining, or obtaining another person for the purpose of exploitation of that person.



20.9 million people are estimated to be trafficked around the world at any given time.

Human trafficking is estimated to be a $150 billion dollar annual business. Trafficking is the second largest source of illegal income internationally: Drug dealing is #1.

Florida is ranked 3rd in the nation for reported call volume to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

Palm Beach County is ranked 3rd in the state for reported call volume to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.

  • 73% of hotline calls in 2016 were sex trafficking, 14% were labor trafficking, 9% were not specified, 4% were sex and labor.
  • 84% were female, 13% were male
  • 65% were adults, 32% were minors
  • Of those callers identifying citizenship, 59% were U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents.

What Palm Beach County is Doing:

Palm Beach County’s Enhanced Collaborative Human Trafficking Task Force
In 2016, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office (PBSO), in partnership with Catholic Charities Diocese of Palm Beach (CCDPB), was awarded federal funding through the United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance and Office for Victims of Crime, to establish an enhanced collaborative strategy to combat human trafficking in Palm Beach County. Through this project, the Palm Beach County Human Trafficking Task Force has been established which includes local, state, and federal law enforcement, prosecution, victims’ services, and other key community stakeholders working together to address human trafficking in our community. Task Force members work together to identify victims of all types of human trafficking through coordinated training, public awareness, and outreach efforts; to conduct proactive investigations of sex and labor trafficking; to make data-driven decisions based on the prevalence, scope and nature of human trafficking in PBC; and to provide a comprehensive array of services to meet the individualized needs of human trafficking victims.

The Human Trafficking Coalition of the Palm Beaches
The Human Trafficking Coalition of the Palm Beaches along with Palm Beach County Victim Services provides trainings to Palm Beach County employees, local schools, community agencies, and law enforcement to raise awareness of the crime of human trafficking.

Services for Victims of Human Trafficking
Direct service agencies who assist victims with needed support including crisis intervention, food, clothing, transportation, housing, employment, education, and legal assistance include Palm Beach County Division of Victim Services, Catholic Charities, Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, and International Rescue Committee.

Warning Signs:

Work or Living Condition Indicators

  • Is not free to leave or come and go as he/she wishes
  • Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts
  • Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp / manager
  • Is unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips
  • Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
  • Is not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work
  • Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
  • Was recruited through false promises concerning the nature and conditions of his/her work
  • High security measures exist in the work and/or living locations (e.g. opaque windows, boarded up windows, bars on windows, barbed wire, security cameras, etc.)
  • Living at place of employment
  • Lives with multiple people in cramped space

Behavioral Signs
People who are trafficked may:

  • Show fear or anxiety
  • Seem depressed, intimidated, submissive, tense, nervous, or paranoid
  • Become unusually fearful or anxious after bringing up law enforcement or are distrustful of authorities
  • Avoid eye contact or lack emotional responsiveness
  • Act as if someone else instructed them, give responses that seem scripted or rehearsed
  • Allow others to speak for them or are accompanied by a group or a controlling friend or boyfriend who speaks for them
  • Resist assistance

Physical Signs
People who are trafficked may:

  • Appear malnourished
  • Shows signs of physical abuse such as bruises, scratches, scars, missing teeth, lacerations, burns, carvings
  • Lack health care and have rotten teeth
  • Be dressed inappropriately for the weather or venue
  • Have tattoos or other forms of branding usually on the neck or lower back.  Tattoos may say “Daddy” or “Property of” or “For Sale”

Questions to Ask:

  • Can you leave your job if you want to?
  • Can you come and go as you please?
  • Have you been hurt or threatened if you try to leave?
  • Has your family been threatened?
  • Do you live with your employer?
  • Are you in debt to your employer?
  • Where do you eat and sleep?
  • Do your family/friends know where you are?
  • Do you have access to your personal identity information (ID, SS card, passport)? Who keeps it for you?

What To Do If You Suspect Trafficking:

If you see someone who may be a victim or if it does not look or feel right call: National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1-888-373-7888 OR Department of Children and Families Hotline for children under 18 years old: 1-800-96-ABUSE (1-800-962-2873)

Contact Us

Division Director:
Nicole A. Bishop
Main Office-Central Courthouse:
205 N. Dixie, Suite 5.1100, 5th floor
West Palm Beach, FL 33401
(561) 355-2418 Option 3
(561) 233-2595

SART Center
(561) 624-6643

24 Hour Human Trafficking Hotline



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