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Unsubstantiated Reports of Human Trafficking Attempts in Boca Raton Raise Local Awareness Level

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Unsubstantiated Reports of Human Trafficking Attempts in Boca Raton Raise Local Awareness Level

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Human trafficking has been on the rise throughout much of South Florida, and teens are becoming much more aware of the intensifying threat. Often times when a person hears stories of kids around him/her being trafficked, it is followed by the thought that it could never happen to that person or anyone closely associated. Yet, especially in the Boca Raton area, this is no longer the case.

Much of the panic started when text messages from anonymous senders circled locally wherein teenage girls were receiving similar if not identical texts that seemed suspicious. The texts read, “Someone has complimented you,” and were followed by a link that leads to unknown sites. While it has never been confirmed whether or not these texts were directly connected to sex trafficking sites, adolescents and parents certainly have become more vigilant.

While many have recently been made aware of the presence of human trafficking infiltrating the region, South Florida has been recognized as having a much higher rate of related crimes than the national average. U.S. Rep Louis Frankel, a Palm Beach County democrat, referred to South Florida as a “trafficking hotspot.”

In fact, of the 38,304 cases reported by the National Human Trafficking Hotline since 2007, over 4,500 came from Florida. Frankel understands trafficking as “our society’s modern-day slavery,” and too many teens are facing this reality, and the numbers keep rising.

After the string of text messages became highly relevant on social media as a possible connection to sex trafficking rings, Palm Beach County teens started to pay close attention to effects that seemed dangerously out of place.

It quickly became realized that suspicious men, and in some cases women, were hanging in and around local malls, raising concern for many. On Sep. 26, the Boca Raton Police Services Department released a statement of Facebook, responding to social media activity regarding an alleged human trafficking attempt made within Boca Raton’s Town Center mall.

Numerous reports were made that earlier that week in the mall, a group of adolescent girls shopping in American Eagle were approached by two adult men who were continually trying to start a conversation, despite the girls’ clear attempts to keep a distance. After the store manager contacted mall security, the men were instructed to leave, and the manager took photos of the two from the store’s video surveillance and posted them on social media as a warning for others.

As tensions were already high in the area, these photos went viral, and many responded that the men were associated with a sex trafficking ring operating in the Boca Raton area. Boca Raton police were quick to open an investigation, and after finding that neither man had a criminal record and that the girls were seen earlier giving their number to these same two men, the police concluded that it was likely a case of two young adults hoping to “pick up” girls, and no crime had been committed.

In the Facebook post, the department reiterated that all complaints are taken seriously, and they “always encourage everyone to call… immediately if they feel something isn’t right.” Despite the decision that the men were likely not affiliated to any sort of trafficking system, panic has continued and many are still very weary in local malls.

An Olympic Heights senior wishing to remain anonymous explained that when shopping for homecoming dresses in the Wellington Mall, she noticed a man who seemed very inappropriate for the girls’ dress section. Upon seeing this man, she initially let it go and continued to shop, but he remained there for another 20 minutes. Understanding the dangers of what some are capable and knowing that it “is not worth taking any sort of risk,” she realized it was time to leave.

The growing worry that those around may be extremely dangerous has transpired throughout all areas of the county. Yet another report of possible human traffickers nearby came from a woman who took her daughters to Sugar Sand Park. In an account relayed to local police officers, the woman stated that while her daughters were playing an innocent game of hide-and-seek, another young girl approached them and continually tried to convince the other two that she knew a much better hiding spot. When the mother looked at where the girl wanted her daughters to hide, she noticed a grown man watching close-by, and she immediately took her girls and left the facility.

After the mother took to Facebook, posting about her experience and that she was given the impression by police that this man was trying to traffic her daughters, it became another instance in which the post went viral and people were outraged. Police spokesperson Mark Economou responded to this mother’s claims, clarifying that “there was no signs of this gentleman trying to lure the children,” and no further complaints had been made in the park.

While many of the suspicions that human traffickers are lurking in the area have been understood to be more fear than reality, there have been a substantial number of arrests made for crimes involving the trafficking of minors.

Last month, two Delray Beach men were charged with sex-trafficking of a minor and additional lesser offenses. Keto Postemus and Aaron Martinez were served with search warrants on October 18, and both were held on unrelated offenses by Broward County Police before being transferred to a Palm Beach County jail.

So far in 2018, 896 phone calls have been made to the Human Trafficking Hotline, and nearly 400 of those have been reported to authorities as serious trafficking threats.

People have always recognized the serious nature of human trafficking and the potential that dangerous individuals may be present. Yet, with a tremendous increase in reports made concerning trafficking threats in the South Florida area, this understanding is becoming much more realistic.

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One Response to “Unsubstantiated Reports of Human Trafficking Attempts in Boca Raton Raise Local Awareness Level”

  1. YOUTH DIALOGUE INDE MEDIA on December 7th, 2018 11:57 pm

    Stop human trafficking

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Unsubstantiated Reports of Human Trafficking Attempts in Boca Raton Raise Local Awareness Level