Doral strengthens its position against human trafficking


By: Diana Bello Aristizábal

Para leer en español

Human trafficking is a problem against which no action to eliminate it is too much because the number of victims around the world continues to grow. Florida doesn’t escape this reality, and that is why this past May, Governor Ron DeSantis announced additional measures to fight this crime. The City of Doral will follow through.


In the U.S., the numbers are alarming. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), the number of people prosecuted for human trafficking doubled from 2011 to 2021, going from 729 individuals to 1,672 respectively. Additionally, Florida, with 738 cases reported in 2020, ranks third among states with the highest number of cases after California and Texas.


“Human trafficking is something that continues to happen. According to recent figures, more than 15,000 cases of human trafficking have been reported in the last two years and 80 percent of them involve minors,” City of Doral Councilman Rafael Pineyro said in the June 12 council meeting after proposing to review and update the municipality’s policies on this issue.


The Councilmember decided to bring forward the item inspired by the latest actions taken by the governor of Florida, including the signing of bill HB 7063 that seeks to establish new protocols and rules such as, for example, the obligation for establishments at risk to exhibit human trafficking awareness signs with telephone numbers of national or Florida hotlines against this crime under penalty of being fined if they fail to do so.


Additionally, DeSantis also allocated more than $4.9 million for the 2024-2025 budget to increase access to emergency beds for victims of human trafficking and provide additional support staff, while developing a $900,000 grant opportunity through the Department of Children and Families in order to improve the training of law enforcement officers who respond to these incidents.


“As for ordinances and resolutions in this regard, ordinance number 2014-27 was approved in 2014 thanks to former Councilmember Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera. This one has not been reviewed since then and it would be a good idea to do so now,” Pineyro said. He received unanimous approval of this motion in which Councilwoman Digna Cabral was included as co-sponsor.


Immigrants, regular victims

Human trafficking is a serious crime and human rights violation that involves force, coercion, or fraud to exploit a person. Women are usually used for sexual exploitation, while men are used for forced labor and it is believed that 1 in 5 victims is a minor exploited for begging, pornography or child labor.


Often, those who fall into human trafficking networks are deceived under promises of a more dignified life through alleged job offers or opportunities that at first glance seem difficult to reject. For this reason, immigrants are the ones who frequently end up becoming victims.


“We are facing this problem as a state and obviously South Florida is no stranger. In fact, there are probably more cases here than elsewhere in the state, especially because of the number of immigrants we have. We see many abuses committed against immigrants due to their status and financial struggles in order to sink them in the dark tunnel that human trafficking is,” Councilman Pineyro said in an interview for Doral Family Journal.


That is why the approval of the June motion within the city, rather than being an endorsement of the governor’s policies, represents an opportunity to improve the services the city offers to victims of human trafficking.


“We are going to do a lot of things. First, the current ordinance will be reviewed with the legal department and second, part of what was approved at the state level will be included in it alongside an information service within the police department. We expect to have a revised proposed ordinance for approval on first reading in the August session.”


The ultimate goal is to send a strong message to organizations exploiting people that the City of Doral will be proactive in penalizing this type of activities. In addition, the aim is to educate the community around this topic since there is a lot of ignorance among young people and immigrant families. “We must be clear on something: We are talking about slavery in the 21st century.”


But aside from this motion, the Doral Police Department is working to help fight this crime at all levels through the work executed by outstanding detectives as part of the Human Trafficking Task Force, managed from the state attorney’s office.


“Our State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle has done an incredible job creating support, awareness and initiatives to fight human trafficking in South Florida. Due to that, in Doral we have not experienced a large number of cases, which doesn’t mean they cannot arise. We must continue to ensure that we allocate adequate resources to prevent them,” Police Chief Edwin Lopez says.


Don’t stay silent, report!

If you see something suspicious, such as a minor working at a nightclub or involved in a relationship with an older person, call 911 or your local law enforcement agency. Everyone’s vigilance is key because there may be a case of human trafficking near your home or work without your knowledge.


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