Human trafficking cases initiated in federal court dropped 29% last year

Fewer human trafficking cases prosecuted in federal court

The number of federal human trafficking cases initiated across the country dropped by nearly a third last year.

That's according to the newly released 2018 Federal Human Trafficking Report.

Jacksonville is part of the federal court system’s Florida Middle District.

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It stretches from Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa all the way down to Fort Meyers.

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In the Florida Middle District, the federal government initiated just one new criminal human trafficking case last year.

Human trafficking survivor Jamie Rosseland now mentors other trafficking survivors at the Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center.

She has a message for people who think it’s not happening here.

“I was trafficked in Jacksonville in the year 2013 for about nine months,” said Rosseland. “It’s definitely happening in Jacksonville. The Open Doors outreach network has gotten over 100 referrals in the last year-and-a-half of people who’ve been trafficked in Jacksonville.”

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But according to the 2018 Federal Human Trafficking Report, the federal government initiated 29 percent fewer human trafficking cases nationwide last year than it did the year before.

In the Florida Middle District, there were 18 criminal human trafficking cases actively working their way through federal court in 2018.

That’s a decrease from the 26 active cases in 2017.

“I think it’s important not to take trafficking, as a crime, lightly,” said Rosseland.

Action News Jax asked the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Florida Middle District why we’re seeing this decrease.

U.S. Attorney’s Office Public Affairs Officer William Daniels said the Florida Middle District indicted a significant number of trafficking cases in 2017.

Those cases often take more than two years to get through the court system, limiting resources for new cases.

Daniels also said current trends reflect local agencies arresting and prosecuting more human trafficking cases, allowing federal prosecutors to focus on larger crime rings.

In Jacksonville, that appears to be true.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said it made 36 human trafficking-related arrests in 2018; that's seven times as many arrests as it made in 2017, when the agency arrested five.

The Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center is at the helm of Florida’s new Open Doors Outreach Network; when a survivor is identified, they’re immediately paired with a survivor mentor, a regional advocate and a clinician.

To connect with the Open Doors Outreach Network, you can contact: