COLLIER COUNTY, Fla — Florida is number three in the nation as a destination for human trafficking, and experts say it will overtake the drug trade as the most profitable illegal industry in the world.
A panel discussion on the topic followed a screening of the Netflix documentary “I am Jane Doe” at the Collier County South Regional Library Tuesday.
The film follows survivors of human trafficking and their parents as they take on a legal system that makes it difficult to prosecute internet sites, such as Backpage.com that host sex trafficking ads.
“First of all they are pushing for justice for their children and they are pushing for justice for children who may become trafficked in the future,” said Florida Department of Health Spokesperson Kristine Hollingsworth.
Experts say middle schoolers are most vulnerable to being trafficked. Most predators befriend kids online by exploiting their emotional problems, before luring them into a life of slavery.
“It’s scary that it’s happening, and that you may not recognize it, you may not catch the warning signs,” said Patricia Smith of Naples.
Many of those who attended the screening already knew about the human trafficking problem, but were disturbed after watching the film.
“I find that absolutely appaling that someone could treat a child like trash,” said Tanya Wilke.
In April of 2018 President Trump signed legislation last year that gives state and federal prosecutors greater power to go after websites that host sex trafficking ads.