January was National Human Trafficking Prevention Month and to promote awareness, the Northeast Florida chapter held its third annual gathering to shed some light on this hidden crime. It was a time for local community associations, service providers, volunteers and law enforcement to come together and support the fight against human trafficking.
The gathering was held at FSCJ South Campus and was the highest attended event yet, with a turnout of more than 200 people. Marjorie Phillips, executive committee member and coordinator of the event stated, “Holding the event this year helped us draw more people attending from law enforcement and social service agencies, as well as the general public.”
It was a night of conversation including a Q&A discussion panel of local experts covering topics of prevention, awareness and support for those affected by human trafficking.
“One of the most inspirational elements to the event was that it provided information on how ordinary citizens can be a part of the solution by recognizing situations and being on the alert when things may be ‘out of the ordinary’ and knowing how to react,” said Tameiko Grant, FSCJ academic director of professional studies and public safety.
“Human trafficking preys upon the most vulnerable members of our society,” said Lt. Kevin Goff from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. “If we do not protect those most vulnerable, what do we say about ourselves as people and as a society?”
It was also a time to celebrate the life of Eileen Jacobs, a retired FBI agent who dedicated her career to protect children and fight human trafficking. After a long 13-year battle with cancer, Ms. Jacobs passed away in August 2016.
Human trafficking is a crime that can be very difficult to recognize without the resources of accurate education regarding its existence. The most important goal of the Northeast Florida Human Trafficking Coalition is to continue to build greater awareness through annual events just like this and community partnerships like FSCJ.