The Tampa Chapter has officially launched! And what a launch it has been – we haven’t yet secured the new safe house scheduled to open in June and we already have two rescues!
Our chapter was received with open arms by the Tampa Bay area with more than 20 eager attendees to our kickoff event, “Trafficking in Our Backyard”. They came from all over the Bay area: Tampa, St. Pete, Sarasota and Clearwater to hear Sam present the cold, hard facts on trafficking activities here.
It was sobering to hear her share the dubious honor Florida now has achieved; we surpassed California in trafficking cases as a result of February’s Super Bowl weekend. The information was eye-opening to many and confirmed to all in attendance that there is a very real, very big problem here in the Bay area.
Reinforcing the sobering statistics, Sam also shared a synopsis of illicit massage parlor activities. There were 28 just in Clearwater alone, all offering some type of inappropriate services to its customers. She further revealed that the web site also provides the opportunity for reviews of the services provided – very graphic, detailed, shocking reviews. Many in attendance stated they had no idea this type of activity was happening right in our backyard.
Additionally, she addressed the big need for volunteers for our chapter activities. The Tampa chapter will prepare all year for the upcoming Super Bowl weekend mission, by hosting fundraising, awareness and prevention activities such as self-defense classes, men’s rallies, technology & trafficking workshops, education, and other informative events. We will open a local safe house in 2020 and will be prepared to do rescue and rehabilitation of survivors by Q4 of 2020.
Sam concluded her talk by sharing an update about the survivor that was saved during Super Bowl, and the arrest of her trafficker in a Tampa hotel. The mission rescue team was instrumental in helping law enforcement rescue the survivor and kept her safe from the trafficker.
The evening closed with a panel discussion with Sam, Dr. Ramos, Field Operations David Hoerr and Tampa chapter director Laurie Wisotsky. Attendees took the opportunity to ask a variety of questions, ranging from trafficking myths, misconceptions about survivors, and what trafficking looks like in everyday public places such as the airport.
It’s exciting to be working in such a proactive effort to fight this horrible crime and we are grateful to everyone that attended our event.
We would like to especially thank all the supporters from our kickoff: the volunteers that stepped up at our event and the wonderful donors who gave generously to the new chapter.
We are off to a great start and we couldn’t have done it without you!
We can’t do any of the great work we have planned without funding. Please donate if you are able and willing, your dollars will be put to work in a big way here in the Bay Area.