Anyone can be a victim of human trafficking. We have to open our eyes.

There are predators who walk among us. They are Black and white, male and female, young and old, rich and poor. They are our neighbors and friends, business leaders and community workers. And thanks to the Tallahassee Police Department’s Operation Stolen Innocence — a two-year investigation into human and child sex trafficking — 178 of these individuals have now been charged with preying on our most vulnerable.

While this is an incredible accomplishment, and likely the largest successful investigation of its kind in local history, it is also a sobering reminder that predation and exploitation happens every single day, hidden in plain sight.

Human trafficking is the world’s fastest-growing criminal enterprise and is set to outpace drug trafficking. The problem is very real and it is growing fast. You may know that Florida is a hotbed for human trafficking – the third highest trafficking destination in the country in fact, with half of all victims being children — but the fact that it’s happening in every single community and zip code in the Sunshine State, including yours and mine, likely seems unreal.

This horrifying truth must be acknowledged and understood if we hope to bring an end to this modern-day slavery, and protect our own children from falling victim to the traps predators set.

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