Human Trafficking 

What Is Human Trafficking?

“Human trafficking”  is defined as transporting, soliciting, recruiting, harboring, providing, enticing, maintaining, or obtaining another person for the purpose of exploiting that person for either commercial sex activity or labor or services. In the case of adult victims, there must be some form of coercion.  Coercion can include the use of force, threats, fraud/deceit, restraint, isolation, confinement, debt, financial harm, interfering with official documents (such as withholding a passport), providing illicit substances/drugs, or other forms of control in an effort to exploit the victim.

In the case of child sex trafficking victims, coercion is not a required element.  For example, a child can seemingly, willingly participate in prostitution, but is still a victim of human trafficking.

Florida is ranked third in the nation and Palm Beach County (PBC) is ranked third in the state for suspected cases of Human Trafficking (HT).  In early 2016, members of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office (PBSO) Special Investigations Division, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the PBC State Attorney’s Office (SAO), and the United States Attorney’s Office (USAO) convened to develop a strategy to address HT in PBC.  The team determined the best approach would include a victim centered, trauma informed, multi-disciplinary Task Force.

To this end, the PBSO, as the lead law enforcement agency, and Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Palm Beach (CCDPB), as the lead victim services’ agency, applied to the Department of Justice and the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) to acquire a grant which would provide funding and a formidable framework to establish an “Enhanced Collaborative Palm Beach County Human Trafficking Task Force” (Task Force) officially commencing in January 2017; the grant was awarded again in October of 2019 with Palm Beach County Victim Services (PBCVS) taking over the role of lead victim services’ agency. Catholic Charities remains involved as a provider of long-term case management.

The Mission of the Palm Beach County Human Trafficking Task Force is to combat human trafficking through a collaborative, victim centered, trauma informed framework by identifying, rescuing, and restoring victims; investigating and prosecuting trafficking crimes; and building awareness about trafficking in and around our community.

The Task Force is comprised of several core partners, unified through a formalized memorandum of understanding, to include:  PBSO, CCDPB, the USAO, the FBI, the SAO, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), PBC Victim Services, Department of Children and Families, and Barry University. Since its inception, numerous additional law enforcement and victim service provider partners have also joined the Task Force.

The primary goals of the Task Force include: the identification of all types of HT victims (foreign/domestic, male/female, adult/minor, labor/sex trafficking); data driven decision making; proactive, long-term investigations; successful prosecutions; and the provision of a comprehensive array of victim services.  Through these established goals and the unparalleled dedication of Task Force members, to date thousands of community stakeholders have been trained to recognize indicators of HT; cases have been opened, arrests have been made, and victims have been identified and offered much needed services.

In 2017, the Task Force was awarded Task Force of the Year by the American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS) in recognition of the accomplishments.

Human Trafficking Resources

Human Trafficking Stories

Rosa’s Story

Part 1 – English Part 2 – English
1ra Parte – Español 2da Parte – Español
Amber's Trafficking Story

My name is Amber and what started as a modeling opportunity ended up in my worst nightmare. I met Anthony, a modeling scout, after seeing an ad on Instagram. Everything seemed professional at first, he was very friendly and respectful. After he explained the gig, we went shopping for new clothes and even got my hair and nails done. He paid for everything. I was so flattered and felt so special. But instead of taking me to a studio like he said he would, he took me to a hotel where the worst months of my life took place. If it wasn’t for Katie behind the register counter that day I wouldn’t have my Human Freedom.

My name is Katie and I work at a retail store. A few months back, I saw this gorgeous girl that came to our store. She was trying on different outfits and was accompanied by a much older man, which is not uncommon to see. Weeks later, the man was back with another beautiful woman and eventually, he became a familiar face at the store. He would come every now and then, always with younger women and he would always pay for everything. Now you would think he was just dating a lot of different girls, but the weird thing is… He would eventually return with these same women and every time they came back, these girls would look frail and scared. One day, Amber came in looking pale, almost as if she was in black and white. She had lost considerable weight. When I went with her to the dressing room, I asked her if she needed help. Her eyes filled with water and she started to shake. That’s when I called the Sheriff’s Office. As it turns out, it was a case of Human Trafficking.

My name is Donald and this is my human trafficking story.

I heard some of my friends talking about going to a college party after Friday’s football game. I had gone to a few parties before, but never with an older crowd, so I asked my parents if I could go. Without even thinking about it, they said, “NO.” They said they didn’t want me hanging out with older folks. When the day of the party came, I told them I was going to watch a movie premiere with friends and they completely forgot about the party so I went. Once there, I met Sean, an older boy who showed me around and introduced me to everyone there. We exchanged numbers and we began texting. At first, he was cool and understanding, especially when I began having problems with my parents, but our “friendship” didn’t last long. One day, after back-and-forth arguments with my parents, Sean convinced me to move into his condo with him. I was very happy the first month until he started inviting his friends over. Soon after that, he began to ask me to do sexual favors for some of his friends. I had no other choice but to comply after he threatened to tell my parents and my football team about my sexuality. Before long, Sean became aggressive and forced me to have sex with different men almost every day. Until an angel came to the rescue, literally, his name was Angel. Thanks to him, I got my Human Freedom back.

My name is Angel and while attending one of Sean’s many parties, I met Donald, Sean’s new roommate. Sean is known among our group of friends for being 1) A party animal and 2) kind of sketchy. He was a cool dude but weird. We imagined it was because he was probably in the closet or doing something illegal. He never works, yet he lives the lavish life, always throwing parties for rich entrepreneurs and the hottest girls in town. Sean is used to having “roommates,” but for some reason, they don’t seem to last. Unlike the rest, Donald was a cool down to earth guy, we could talk about anything that was sports-related. After seeing him at Sean’s parties a few times, I noticed he went from being an outgoing guy to more quiet and reserved. One night while chilling at Sean’s place, we overheard Donald and Sean arguing in one of the rooms. I went to see if everything was okay and saw Sean pushed Donald in the room and he locked the door with three locks on the outside. Confused, I confronted Sean about it and he yelled: “Mind your damn business.” I found their interaction concerning and his reaction disturbing so I left and put an anonymous tip to the authorities. I distance myself from them and eventually found out it was a case of Human Trafficking.

World Day Against Human Trafficking logoOn the World Day against Trafficking in Persons, the United Nations (UN) is calling on the international community to urgently step up responses to the trafficking of children and young people, who make up one-third of all victims worldwide.

Read more on the UN site…

Palm Beach County Human Trafficking Task Force logo

Contact Us:

The Facts

Human Trafficking word art image
  • FLORIDA Ranks #3 in the Nation for Suspected Cases of Human Trafficking
  • PALM BEACH COUNTY Ranks #3 in Florida for Suspected Cases of Human Trafficking
  • $150 Billion Dollar Industry World Wide
  • Estimated 20.9 million victims of Human Trafficking World Wide
  • 68% trapped in Forced Labor
  • 26% are Children
  • 55% are Female
  • Estimated 400,00-650,000 Victims of Human Trafficking in the United States
  • Majority of Victims are U.S. Citizens or Permanent Residents
  • 13 is the Average Age of U.S. Children Forced into Sex Trafficking
  • 1 in 5 Runaways Report Being Forced into Sex Trafficking

*Data obtained from: International Labor Organization Global Estimate of Forced Labor, Polaris, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, United States Department of State, and United States Trafficking in Persons Reports

Recognize the Signs

Human Trafficking signs
  • Is the person free to leave, come and go as they wish?
  • Is the person unpaid, paid very little, or paid only through tips?
  • Does the person work excessively long and/or unusual hours?
  • Is the person not allowed breaks or suffers under unusual restrictions at work?
  • Does the person owe a large debt and is unable to pay it off?
  • Was the person recruited under false promises concerning the nature and conditions of their work?
  • Does the person live at their place of employment?
  • Does the person live with multiple people in a cramped space?
  • Is the person in the commercial sex industry and do they have a pimp/manager?
  • Is the person under the age of 18 and providing commercial sex acts?
  • Does the person appear overly anxious, fearful, paranoid?
  • Does the person avoid eye contact?
  • Does the person appear depressed, hopeless, exhibit self-destructive behaviors?
  • Does the person appear to suffer from substance abuse disorders or post-traumatic stress?
  • Is the person malnourished, exhibit untreated wounds, have older broken bones?
  • Does the person have burn marks, bite marks, or branding tattoos?
  • Is the person in control or possession of their personal identification, travel documents, money, financial records, bank account?
  • Does the person have few or no personal possessions?
  • Does the person have a lack of knowledge of their whereabouts and/or a loss of sense of time?
  • Does the person have numerous inconsistencies in his/her story?
  • If a minor, is the person enrolled in school?

How to Report

Human Trafficking resources

To report a suspected case of Human Trafficking please contact:

National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC)
1 (888) 373-7888

BeFree Textline Text to:
“BeFree” (233733)

In the event of an emergency situation which requires immediate attention, contact 911

To request information or training from our local Task Force please contact:

Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Human Trafficking Unit at 561-687-6838

For more information regarding Task Force victim services or to make a victim services referral, directly, please contact:

Palm Beach County Victim Services Division
Contact Phone: (561) 355-2418

HELPLINE: (561) 833-7273
TOLL FREE: (866) 891-7273

Catholic Charities of the Diocese Of Palm Beach
Bakihta Empowerment Program
Contact Phone: (561) 345-2008