Human Trafficking Prevention month in Florida, encouraging parents to stay aware

Law enforcement agencies from across Northeast Florida are working to combat human trafficking in our area.

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It’s something people like Nicole McCall can get behind, as not only a survivor but also an advocate.

“It’s important to always know who your kids are talking to, who their friends are,” McCall said.

Action News Jax told you McCall’s story in our previous investigations. She was kidnapped on the Southside of Jacksonville and held inside a motel with her two friends for weeks before she was able to escape.

“What happened to me was very horrific,” McCall said. “It shouldn’t have happened.”

This month marks 23 years since the kidnapping and nearly one year since the launch of a major task force meant to crack down on trafficking in Northeast Florida.

“We are seeing a lot of cases, in particularly with this intercept taskforce, all over the country,” Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper said.

Action News Jax told you in March of last year when Sheriff Leeper alongside sheriffs from Duval, St. Johns, Putnam, and Clay announced the launch of the first Florida-based INTERCEPT Task Force, coined ‘Operation Light Shine.’

“We’re more aware of it,” Sheriff Leeper said. “We went out to Texas recently to arrest an individual who posed as a 14-year-old girl, actually he was a 19-year-old man trying to entice a child here in our community to send him photos.”

The national non-profit works to combat human trafficking. Funding allows for agencies to dedicate a full-time detective to work strictly on human trafficking and exploitation cases.

“We want to protect our children at all costs,” Sheriff Leeper said. “We’re working with legislatures to increase penalties on enticing a child and trying to cut down on human trafficking.”

As a survivor, McCall wants parents to make sure they pay attention to their children’s devices. She encourages having open conversations about the dangers of the internet.

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