TAMPA, Fla. — A penalty meant to punish sex buyers and help child victims is falling short.
I-Team Investigator Kylie McGivern spent the last four months digging into state and county records, following the money and found a disconnect between the arrest, prosecution and collection of a fine meant to help kids in Florida safe houses.
In the fight against human trafficking, a local nonprofit says there are forgotten victims — boys.
The I-Team went inside a Central Florida safe house that’s the first of its kind in the country, the only home serving boy victims of sex trafficking.
“They’re often a forgotten victim of trafficking because we don’t allow them to be the victim,” U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking (USIAHT) Executive Director John Long said.
Long runs the boys safe house for the non-profit, faith-based organization.
“We think that these boys are willing participants, that it’s a victimless crime, if the boy didn’t want to do it, the boy wouldn’t do it. But we know that that’s not true,” Long said.
In February 2020, Vestavia Hills police were able to rescue four children from trafficking and arrest the man suspected of trafficking them.
Capt. Johnny Evans with the Vestavia Hills Police Department said without the training they received as part of being named a “Human TraffickingFree Zone” in November 2019, they might not have been able to spot what was happening.
As the city continues to train its employees on how to spot and prevent human trafficking, the Police Department is seeing success in cracking down on these cases.
“Our officers now, when they’re dealing with people, know to look for certain things,” Evans said. “We’ve really been able to notice more of the signs.”
Becoming a “Human TraffickingFree Zone” is part of the Child Trafficking Solutions Project, formed in response to the passage of the state’s Safe Harbor Act, created by former state Rep. Jack Williams from Vestavia Hills.