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Florida expands support for human trafficking victims with new funding and training programs


Florida – Governor Ron DeSantis has taken significant steps to strengthen Florida’s fight against human trafficking. Announcing a series of new initiatives and funding allocations, the governor emphasized the state’s proactive stance on this critical issue. Among the measures is the approval of $4.9 million in the 2024–2025 budget to expand access to emergency beds for victims of human trafficking and provide additional support staff. Additionally, a $900,000 grant opportunity will be established through the Department of Children and Families to enhance training for law enforcement officers who respond to human trafficking incidents.

Expanding Support for Victims

“Florida is being proactive about stopping human trafficking,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “Though our open southern border invites criminal activity like human trafficking, states can combat it with stronger penalties and increased training for emergency personnel to recognize and respond to trafficking, and today I was pleased to institute those measures in Florida.” The $4.9 million budget allocation will increase the availability of emergency beds for victims, ensuring they have immediate access to safe housing and necessary support services. This initiative will also provide for additional support staff to assist victims in their recovery and reintegration into society.

Enhancing Training for Law Enforcement

In conjunction with the increased support for victims, Governor DeSantis announced a $900,000 grant opportunity aimed at enhancing training for law enforcement officers. This funding will be utilized to improve officers’ ability to recognize and respond to human trafficking incidents, ensuring a more effective and coordinated response across the state.

“There is simply no place for human trafficking in the State of Florida. As someone who has been in the fight to combat human trafficking for more than 15 years, I can tell you that Florida has come a long way in combating this pervasive evil and is a recognized leader across the nation,” said Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez. “Today’s announcement reaffirms that Florida continues to lead the way in investing in prevention, enhancing training, and providing meaningful services that will help victims get back on their feet and start to rebuild their lives again with dignity and opportunity.”

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Legislative Measures and New Laws

In addition to the funding and training initiatives, Governor DeSantis signed HB 7063, which introduces several new regulations and requirements to further combat human trafficking. Key components of this bill include:

  • The continued development and coordination of state and local law enforcement and social services response frameworks.
  • Mandatory human trafficking awareness signs with hotline numbers in various public facilities and establishments, with increased punishments for non-compliance.
  • Requirements for entities contracting with the Florida state government to assure they do not use coercion for labor or services.
  • Prohibition of minors from being employed by adult entertainment establishments in any role, with increased punishments for violations.

“Governor DeSantis is a strong ally in our fight to end human trafficking, and I am grateful for the resources Florida is dedicating to helping victims of trafficking become survivors,” said Attorney General Ashley Moody. “I am also excited that our statewide reporting number is being added to mandatory awareness signs across Florida. If you see or suspect human trafficking, call 1-855-FLA-SAFE.”

Building on Previous Legislation

The announcement follows a series of legislative measures signed last month aimed at combating human trafficking and preventing child grooming in Florida. These include:

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  • HB 305: Expands the evidence that can be presented to a jury in sex-abuse cases involving minors and increases penalties for those involved in the sex trafficking of minors.
  • HB 1545: Protects children from grooming activities and other sexual offenses.
  • HB 1131: Establishes a grant program within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to create online sting operations targeting sexual predators.
  • HB 1235: Creates stricter guidelines for sex offender registration.
  • SB 1224: Strengthens the Statewide Guardian ad Litem Office’s role and implements new training requirements to ensure law enforcement properly assesses domestic violence situations.

Last year, Governor DeSantis also championed legislation instituting the death penalty for those convicted of child rape, further underscoring Florida’s commitment to protecting vulnerable populations.

A Unified Effort Against Human Trafficking

“Under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, Florida will continue to lead the nation in the fight against human trafficking,” said Department of Children and Families Secretary Shevaun Harris. “Our Department will continue our work to support survivors, and with the help of our partners will ensure that the right services are available to meet their needs.”

With these comprehensive measures, Florida is not only addressing the immediate needs of human trafficking victims but also enhancing preventative measures and law enforcement capabilities to combat this pervasive issue effectively.

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