ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Leaders from across Orange County came together on Saturday to shine a light on the harsh realities of human trafficking in Florida.
Florida ranks as the third-highest state in the country for human trafficking.
State Attorney Monique Worrell and other Orange County leaders are hoping to raise awareness that makes a difference in the community.
On Saturday, the Central Florida Human Trafficking Taskforce got together for The Red Sand Project.
People poured red sand into the cracks in front of the courthouse, representing all the cases and the people that have fallen through the cracks.
“This must be stopped,” Worrell said. “Human trafficking has become a form of modern-day slavery in which people are coerced, defrauded, and coerced into labor and sexual exploitation.”
Worrell said saving human trafficking victims is a top priority.
The 2019 national hotline report shows more than 11,000 cases of human trafficking were reported just that year.
Worrell believes cases are higher, but they aren’t sure the full scope of the issue because so many cases go undetected.
Sometimes people don’t realize they are victims because they’re being manipulated.
Human trafficking survivor Dr. Marianne Thomas said a lot of times people just stand by and watch it happen.
“Here’s what I know. My life has changed because of each one of you. My life is different because law enforcement stepped in. My friends in law enforcement see us first,” Thomas said.
Thomas hopes as the community is made more aware, they can save other people from what she endured.
“We’re all in this together. It takes all of us to get rid of this horrible crime,” Thomas added.
The group also read a statement from Mayor Buddy Dyer proclaiming the month of January as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Month.