Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi was in Tampa today to announce a new initiative aimed at preventing child sex trafficking. The program's mantra is "Instant Message, Instant Nightmare." The initiative will feature billboards expressing the anti-human trafficking message, and the program encourages parents to monitor their kids' activity online to ensure they don't come in contact with potential traffickers.
Bondi recorded a public service announcement that can be seen on her website www.pambondi.com. She listed the goals of the initiative:
"To make Florida a place with zero tolerance for human trafficking; to toughen state laws against offenders in line with federal statutes; and to increase criminal penalties for offenders [and] designate those convicted as sex traffickers as sexual offenders and predators known by all."
Bondi concedes that the crime is underreported and that Florida is a harbor state for this kind of offense, ranking third in the country in calls to the national hotline regarding human trafficking.
Tampa Chief of Police Jane Castor spoke at the Tampa press conference this morning.
"With today's social media and the way that communication has been made so much easier, it makes it easy for these predators to target young kids that are vulnerable," she said.
Castor says there is a way to counteract the problem. She says enforcement and education are equally important.
"We have got to have the parents, the community, the teachers, schools, everyone involved in this," she said. "Identifying these issues of human trafficking and letting law enforcement know so that we can take action."