TAMPA, Fla. - Human trafficking is a heartbreaking and disgusting industry, and it's one of the fastest-growing criminal organizations in the world. Even in Florida, the problem continues to grow.
The state is ranked third in the nation for human trafficking cases. According to data gathered by the National Human Trafficking Hotline from 2007 to 2016, Tampa ranked as the seventh city in the nation for the number of human trafficking cases per capita.
"You can see a person being taken advantage of multiple times. We have survivors that have been bought and sold anywhere from 15 to 40 times in one day," said Kyra Montaque with Selah Freedom, an organization devoted to preventing human trafficking and helping victims.
It's a problem that can only be stopped in you know what to look for. That's why Montaque travels the state, educating people both young and old about those red flags.
"We see that our young people are running away around the age of 15," said Montaque. "They're more at risk of being approached by a trafficker."
However, some trafficking tactics aren't as obvious. Traffickers now take to the digital world, hiding behind fake profiles to target victims on social media and gaming platforms.
"It might just be, 'Oh wow, you're really pretty.' And that might lead into, 'Can you send me a picture of yourself,'" explained Montaque.
But for those on the outside, being able to spot the warning signs of someone trapped in the cycle is just as important.
"Maybe they don't have IDs, no personal belongings, strange tattoos popping up," said Montaque.
It could be what saves their life.
"We need to come together and we need to be fighting against this problem," Montaque added.
If you are a victim in need of help, you can contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at (888) 373-7888 or text "HELP" to 233733.
Selah Freedom, located in Sarasota, is also ready to help. They can be reached at (888) 8-FREE-ME or (888) 837-3363.