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SWFL | Multitude of agencies team up to crack down on child trafficking

Posted at 6:36 PM, Sep 21, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-21 18:36:00-04

Law enforcement agencies in Southwest Florida are working together and using technology to combat a crime that thrives on just that — technology.

City, county and even federal law agencies are gathering to take down what State Attorney Amira Fox has called one of the biggest threats facing our area: child trafficking.

The newly developed Southwest Florida Intercept Task Force aims to collectively use technology to fight criminal technology and stop child pornography exploitation.

Fox 4's Briana Brownlee spoke with one child trafficking survivor who says she's pleased to see agencies keeping a focus on the issue.

“I realized my mom was considered my trafficker," said Tammy Toney Butler. “She had her own childhood trauma, I don’t fault her, I forgave her on her death bed, and I still love her.”

Butler was only in kindergarten when she experienced being trafficked, and says she didn't realize she was a victim until she was older.

Her story is not an uncommon one, according to CEO of the Shelter For Abused Children and Women Linda Oberhaus.

"Many of them don't even identify as victims of human trafficking," Oberhaus said. "Many of them don't know what human trafficking is."

Data from the Shelter shows the average age of survivors is 13, with more than half of all victims being children.

"Children are being exploited," said State Attorney Amira Fox. "So many children are being trafficked."

And that's exactly what Southwest Florida Intercept is all about.

“Our goal is to identify those victims who have been effected, stop the distribution or transmission of videos and photos, and ultimately go back to rescue the original victim,” said Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk.

For Butler, she says forgiveness and faith have been the guiding light in her story.

"There is hope, there is a pathway to healing and I found it. The chains no longer bind me.”