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Today, St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway announced the Department of Justice awarded a $741,556 grant to the St. Petersburg Police Department for three years to create a regional Tampa Bay Human Trafficking Task Force. The Task Force is a collaboration of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, working with organizations that provide services to victims of human trafficking. **
“Human trafficking victims are real and too many of them are children whose innocence is forcibly taken from them with devastating and often lasting consequences. Only through a direct and concerted effort will we be able to make a difference and eradicate human trafficking from our community,” said Anthony Holloway, Chief of Police.
The Tampa Bay Human Trafficking Task Force will focus on three areas.
1. Education: provide education and training to law enforcement and the public to build awareness.
2. Rescue: coordinate with support programs and resources to help victims.
3. Enforcement: implement technology that makes it easier to collect and share data across jurisdictions. Provide law enforcement support and assist with investigation and prosecution.
“Human trafficking is a crime that will not be tolerated in our communities,” said U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez. “Criminals who commit these horrific acts on our citizens should know that we are serious about finding them, prosecuting them, and putting them where they belong - behind bars.”
The geographic scope of the grant is within the Middle District of Florida and includes the following agencies:
Federal: U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations.
State: Florida Office of the Attorney General, Office of Statewide Prosecution, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, State Attorneys’ Offices (Florida Judicial Circuits 5th, 6th, 12th, and 13th)
Local: Hernando County Sheriff’s Office, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Bradenton Police, Clearwater Police, Haines City Police, Palmetto Police, Sarasota Police, St. Petersburg Police, Tampa Police, Wauchula Police, and Zephyrhills Police.
Victim Service Provider: Selah Freedom
** What is Human Trafficking? a) Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act is under age 18; or b) The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery. (22 U.S.C. 7102(9)).