New laws clamp down on human trafficking in Florida

Published On: Jun 17 2014 04:41:37 PM EDT
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -

The U.S. Department of State says as many as 40,000 people are being trafficked in the country, with many of them in Florida. New laws signed Tuesday clamp down on traffickers in the state.

Niki Cross didn't know if she'd be standing in the Capitol on Tuesday.

"I never would have imagined 40 years ago when I was chained in a third floor attic by the ankle that I'd be standing doing this today," said Cross.

The human trafficking survivor cried tears of joy as Florida's governor signed two new laws Tuesday.

"The ability for survivors to help receive the protection and care they need is critical to their recovery and that is why we are here," said Gov. Rick Scott.

The new legislation will provide stiffer penalties for people trafficking kids. More money will also be available to help victims.

Victim-turned advocate Connie Rose said the funding can turn lives around.

"For one it's going to open doors because we need that money," said Rose. "We need that funding to be able to pay our safe houses, to give them the restoration services they need."

Help in the fight against human trafficking is coming from an unlikely place: Truck stops.

"The truckers, where do you take a little girl to traffick her? A truck stop," said Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. "The truckers have now partnered with us, and they are our eyes and ears calling in suspicious reports of human trafficking."

The U.S. State Department estimates Florida has the third highest human trafficking rate in the country. The average age of people sold into human trafficking trade is 12-14 for boys and 11-13 for girls.

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