As COVID-19 cases surge, another hidden issue is taking its toll on our country’s most vulnerable. Human trafficking cases have risen 185% compared to this time last year, according to Cast (one of the nation’s largest providers of services for survivors). Cast has also seen a dramatic rise in homeless clients since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. One-hundred percent of its cases classified as “urgent” human trafficking cases have been comprised of homeless survivors during the pandemic. This desperation has led to more people being tricked into modern-day slavery.
Another upcoming concern where Human Trafficking will take place in the US is during the Superbowl, which will be played on Sunday, Feb. 7 in Tampa, Florida. With Florida ranking third among U.S. states in volume of human trafficking victims, this is a high-priority issue.
High-profile events that draw big-spending, out-of-town visitors, even during a pandemic that has curtailed the crowd sizes and party scene, are natural targets for traffickers. In Atlanta two years ago, the FBI reported that an 11-day pre-Super Bowl operation yielded the arrests of 169 people, including 44 alleged traffickers, and the rescues of 29 juvenile victims.
Florida’s Attorney General Ashley Moody stated that her office is providing virtual training to Uber drivers and hotel staff members to help educate them on the signs of human trafficking and how to report it. They will also put warnings on buses, billboards, and all-around town to let people know what trafficking signs to look for.