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Pinellas County Commission expands state human trafficking initiative

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Pinellas County Commissioners Tuesday passed an ordinance furthering the work of the Florida Legislature to curb human trafficking. Last year, the legislature approved a bill ultimately signed into law that gave county commissions the authority to place signs in certain locations educating the public about the labor and sex trafficking.

The state law enacted in June required posting the National Human Trafficking Resource Center Hotline telephone and text numbers at all Florida transportation hubs and buildings. Those locations were seen as places where employees and the public would likely see the signs and targeted individuals who should know how to recognize signs of human trafficking.

The Pinellas County Commission furthers that effort by approving an ordinance placing signs in strip clubs, businesses that offer “bodywork” services and specialty salons. Those are all places where human trafficking tends to occur.

“I want to thank the Pinellas County Commission for passing this ordinance, and for being the second county in Florida to do so. Human trafficking is a sick but profitable criminal enterprise that affects up to 300,000 children, and many young adults in the United States each year. Florida is among the top three states for human trafficking,” said Sen. Jack Latvala, one of the bill’s original sponsors. “As counties in Florida pass this ordinance, more of these cases will be reported, and hopefully help put an end to this widespread practice of modern-day slavery.”

The state legislation was also sponsored by state Rep. David Kerner from Palm Springs.

The human trafficking hotline is funded through the Department of Health and Human Services. They have provided service referrals, tips for police, public information and training and technical assistance pertaining to human trafficking since 2007.

The hotline is toll-free and open seven days a week, 24-hours a day. The hotline is operated in more than 200 languages. The phone number is 888-337-3888. Texts can be sent to the hotline at 233-733.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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