More people in Northeast Florida have been making calls to a national human trafficking hotline.
That may be due to a bump in public awareness, not necessarily because more people are being trafficked.
Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said the area saw an uptick in human trafficking cases last year, but he was unable tell reporters Tuesday by how much.
“I don’t know by how much, but there’s been increase over the last couple of years — really due to again, us being able to educate the community more, the community engaging with us more and us being able to identify more cases,” he said.
Williams said JSO, along with state and federal partners, last year helped identify or rescue 66 victims of human trafficking and made 54 human trafficking arrests, resulting in eight federal indictments.
A 2016 state legislative study ranked Duval County fifth in the state for the number of sex trafficking cases, and the sheriff said public awareness could continue to boost the numbers.
“As people get more educated about the topic and become more familiar with the topic, we will get more and more tips and suspicions that come in that we can investigate. Again, it’s a good thing for us when those numbers go up,” he said. “Where that ends? I’m not really sure.”
Florida ranks third in the nation for the number of calls to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
WJCT has reached out to JSO for a record of 2017 calls and trafficking cases to find out the percent increase year over year. The story will be updated once that information becomes available.