There are required signs posted in airports, train stations and highway rest stops throughout the state to raise awareness of the National Human Trafficking Hotline. We hit the road to see if the message was getting through to travelers.
At our local airport as well as rest stops and train stations across the state, people told us they never noticed the signs.
“It doesn’t have anything to draw attention to it,” said Donna VanBramer a seasonal resident. “I have to say I probably would ignore that sign. And I usually read everything. I was a teacher for 30 years.”
“I have stopped at multiple rest areas across I-75, and I had never noticed the sign,” said anti-trafficking advocate Yaro Garcia, and she is always on high alert. Garcia has counseled trafficking survivors for more than a decade and works with law enforcement as an advocate. “This does not look like a sign meant to help someone in trouble,” she said.
In 2016 state legislators passed a bill requiring the signs be created and posted. Current Congressional Representative Ross Spano co-sponsored the bill when he was a state lawmaker.
“We worked hard to get the bill passed to make sure that victims do have the ability to have access to it,” Congressman Spano said. “If in fact it’s a problem and people aren’t seeing it, it’s certainly something that we should address.”
Spano has long supported a crackdown on human trafficking, drafting several pieces of legislation to combat it. He takes the feedback to heart.
“We’ll do whatever we can to make sure that the intent of the law originally is effectuated,” Spano said.
We reached out to current state lawmakers about this, and Senator Kathleen Passidomo, Republican Majority Leader, responded and took action by reaching out to the Florida Department of Transportation.
New signs the DOT will post are in color, and they include images. They incorporate the kinds of changes suggested by the public and advocates we spoke to.
If you need help, contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline online at humantraffickinghotline.org or call 1 (888) 373-7888. You can also text “HELP” or “INFO” to 233733.