For many, the idea that human sex trafficking could be occurring in Central Florida is hard to fathom as many have the idea that the movie “Taken” is what the typical human trafficking situation looks like. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The majority are groomed over a process of time and many still live at home while they are being trafficked.
According to the latest statistics by Polaris, Florida remains number three in the nation for reported cases of human trafficking and the Florida Department of Health states that Florida is the third most popular trafficking destination in the nation with half of those being trafficked under the age of 18. The I-4 corridor, which flows from Tampa to Daytona is the number one place for trafficking in Florida and wherever there are conventions, hotels, and theme parks there is a vulnerability that human traffickers capitalize upon.
In 2018, Florida lawmakers attempted to get Disney to take a stand against human trafficking, but they decided to stay silent, and their lobbyists only referred the legislators to the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. According to one author, “lawmakers let the whispers of corporations – who did not have the courage to raise their issues publicly – drown out the pleas for action from human trafficking survivors.”
In March of 2022, Disney employees and a former judge were among the 108 arrested in a human trafficking ring in Florida. Officials identified four Disney employees as among those arrested. Xavier Jackson, 27, worked as a lifeguard at the Polynesian Resort for Walt Disney. Judd said Jackson sent inappropriate photos of himself and messages to an undercover detective who pretended to be a 14-year-old girl. He was charged with three counts of transmitting harmful material to a minor and one count of unlawful communication. “We protected some little girl someplace that was groomed or potentially groomed by these evil, deviant criminals, thugs, that’s all they are,” Judd said about the four suspects at a press conference. “They’re dangerous people.”
And on March 31, 2022, the City Journal published a scathing expose entitled, “Disney’s Child Predator Problem.” In 2014 CNN published a “bombshell” report detailing that at least 35 Disney employees had been arrested for sex crimes against children. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd was asked why Disney has such a problem and he replied, “wherever you find children, you will find sexual predators.” He went on further to add “most employees work at Disney because they want a good, stable job with a great company, but there is always a few that are there because they can see children. They can live in a child’s world.”
Selling individuals for sex is a worldwide problem according to the United Nations. They estimate that 1 in 113 people are in danger of being trafficked at any moment and human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world with over 40 million people being held in slavery at this moment.
Yet for those of us in Central Florida and throughout the United States we know that the issue is profound and wherever you find corporations fixated on revenue that relates to children. There will always be a ripe ground for human trafficking. That is why at Bikers Against Trafficking we seek to educate people as to what is going on and what they can do to make a difference. If you want to get involved or learn more please check out our website at BikersAgainstTrafficking.org