JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Action News investigates the growing trend of human trafficking in our area.
Police say this is a growing problem. Even after Monday's arrest, they're investigating another case where women are coming all the way from Kentucky to act as sex slaves here. Now a local agency is making sure they're prepared to help these young victims sold for sex.
They could be your neighbor, your friend or even your sister. They are girls sold for sex. It's happening right in our own backyard. It's been called modern day slavery. It's faces of young girls that have people like Mike Williams working hard. He's part of the Northeast Florida Human Trafficking Task Force. "Florida is ranked 3rd as the destination state for human trafficking," said Williams.
According to the Department of Children and Family services, there have been at least 130 cases of human trafficking in Florida. Gainesville has seen a few of them. There's been at least two cases in Jacksonville.
Last October, a man was sentenced to 50 years in prison for bringing girls from Virginia to Jacksonville to act as prostitutes. Monday six men were arrested in a sex trafficking ring. Police say they held a 15-year-old captive for a month and forced her to have sex with men. "This is the first local case that involves a local citizen," said Williams.
According to the FBI, every 10 minutes someone becomes the victim of human trafficking. Many of them are children. A spokesman for DCF says that's why they're now training their investigators on what signs to look for. They say most often the victims are runaway teenage girls. Just like in Monday's arrests, the sheriff says there's a reason young girls are the target. "The sellers coerced the juvenile by supplying her with drugs, and providing for her basic needs and threatening her."
As for the arrests announced Monday, we're told the 15-year-old girl is safe and more arrests are possible. This all came to light after the girl was able to call her mom, and then asked to go to police.
There is a National Human Trafficking hotline you can call. That number is 1-888-373-7888.