The message of Saturday's Human Trafficking Awareness event at Lake Eola Park in Orlando, Florida was that there are cases of forced prostitution and modern-day slavery right in Central Florida.... the mecca of tourism.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, a 14-year-old girl from Brevard County had been abducted and was rescued with two other girls from a man with a history of forcing young girls into prostitution. At the awareness event, Larry Zweig, director of the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation said,
"Florida is a people magnet for so many good reasons."
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, another speaker at the event chimed in,
"Unfortunately, our popularity has also turned our state into a hub for human trafficking."
Internationally, human trafficking, which includes sex slavery, forced labor, and indentured servitude, has become a $34 billion industry, said Anna I. Rodriguez, founder of the Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking. That makes it only second to drug trafficking, which remains the world's top criminal enterprise.
According to Zweig, there have been 24 investigations, with nine juveniles rescued and 10 people arrested in Central Florida.
Tomas J. Lares, chairman of the Central Florida human-trafficking task force says,
"We want to make sure every citizen of Orlando knows it's occurring here because the key is to get people involved."