Crime & Safety

New campaign at PBIA hopes to prevent human trafficking

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Florida continues to be a hotspot for human trafficking.

Advocates with the Human Trafficking Coalition of Palm Beach County said that the Sunshine State’s big tourism industry and wealth help attract this crime.

In 2020, Florida ranked No. 3 in the nation for suspected cases of human trafficking. Palm Beach County was No. 3 in the state.

To help combat this form of modern slavery, every 30 minutes, the Palm Beach International Airport is warning people to be on the lookout for victims who need to be rescued. The announcement comes through an intercom public service announcement.

“I just traveled here and I’m headed back, and I didn’t think about it once,” Mckayla Miller, a graduate student from Texas, said.

Miller said she traveled to West Palm Beach for a conference and got the shocking reminder that more than 25 million people worldwide are victims of human trafficking.

“Now it’s kind of on my radar, which even that grows awareness, which is good,” Miller said.

“If we can save one person from human trafficking, then it’s worth it,” Nicole Hughes with Palm Beach International Airport said. “We care about our community. We care about the people that live in Palm Beach County, and we care about the people that travel through this airport.”

Hughes said seven million passengers pass through PBIA each year.

“We really do feel it’s our responsibility to help inform the passengers that this is a real situation that’s happening in our own area,” Hughes said.

The Human Trafficking Coalition of the Palm Beaches said there were at least 15 verified reported cases of human trafficking with minors in Palm Beach County in 2021.

Laura Cusack, Human Trafficking Coalition of the Palm Beaches

“Indicators that could take place in the travel industry — like an airport — could be purchases being made with cards that were stolen or flagged, individuals that are traveling internationally or multiple stops with little to no luggage,” Laura Cusack with the Human Trafficking Coalition of the Palm Beaches said. “You want to look for indicators of control, so if someone is not able to freely move about, maybe someone is constantly answering for them, they’re not able to speak for themselves, they might look fearful for that individual.”

The nonprofit trains Transportation Security Administration agents and staff at nearby hotels to spot the signs and says PBIA’s latest effort will hopefully help rescue victims.

“I really hope people will take the time to listen and realize it’s a huge local issue,” Cusack said.

The PSA is also airing in Spanish, and the airport plans to hang posters to help people spot the signs of human trafficking.

Call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 to report suspected cases of human trafficking.

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