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Department of Health in Collier County spreading awareness on human trafficking

Learning the signs & symptoms of human trafficking
Posted at 6:43 PM, Jan 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-04 08:53:39-05

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. -- January is not only the beginning of the new year, but also the start of National Slavery & Human Trafficking Prevention month.

Between 14,000 and 17,000 people are trafficked in the United States each year. Florida ranks third in the nation as a human trafficking destination.

Now, the Florida Department of Health in Collier county is working to bring more awareness about it to the community.

Linda Oberhaus is the CEO for Abuse Women & Children in Naples. It's an organization that helps victims of domestic violence and human trafficking.

Oberhaus says, "there's actually a circuit where traffickers can travel from Miami through Naples and Collier County through Tampa, and Orlando so they tend to move these girls around."

She tells Fox 4 a big place for human traffickers to look is online, saying, "women in particular need to be leery of their searches for jobs online and making sure that if they meet up with someone they're doing it in a public place."

Kristine Hollingsworth is the public information officer for the Collier County Sheriff's office. She said, "before predators were able to go the mall, they were able to lurk outside of schools, and now all they have to do is sit on their computer and click a button. They're on Facebook. They're on Instagram."

The Florida Department of Health in Collier County received a $3,500 grant to spread awareness on human trafficking.

"We are right now in the process of printing 6,000 educational and awareness brochures, pamphlets, fliers, posters, assessment cards, and pocket cards," said Hollingsworth.

Those cards tell you what to look for if you see a human trafficking victim, and a hot-line to call.

It's another tool to help find victims, and rescue them.

“With this particular initiative, the main thing we are asking the public to do is to keep an eye out," Hollingsworth said.

If you or someone you know needs to contact the hot-line, the phone number is 1-888-373-7888.

For a list of shelters & other resources, visit the Collier County Sheriff's Office Website.