St. Pete workers being trained to spot human trafficking

The city of St. Petersburg is taking a stand against human trafficking, declaring the city a trafficking-free zone. 

Mayor Rick Kriseman made the proclamation this week, making sure city staff, bus drivers and other workers are trained on what to look for regarding human trafficking.

Kriseman worked with the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking on awareness training, joining other counties in the fight against the crime. Tampa Bay Area businesses are also learning how to watch out for human trafficking.

The U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking gives out yellow stickers to label a business or place as a “trafficking free zone” after they’ve completed training on spotting the signs of a trafficking victim and how to report it. 

It comes at a time when human trafficking awareness is a big focus because January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month and January 11 is Wear Blue Day to raise awareness. 

Local businesses from construction firms to chambers of commerce and more are standing up against trafficking.

“And the massage therapy industry was actually really excited about this because an issue they have is clients will come in who may be sex buyers and will request sexual services when this is a legitimate business,” said Stephanie Costolo, Florida Regional manager for the U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking.

Costolo said sex buyers need to be held accountable more often and given harsh punishments that hold up. She said the organization is also working with other cities across the state to become trafficking free zones.