Plans underway for Jan. rally in Key West
To a not-so-packed room at Unity of the Keys Spiritual Center in Key West on Monday, Rev. Dr. Jonathan Carey of Glad Tidings Church relayed an adage instilled by his Bahamian grandmother.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” Carey addressed the Keys Coalition of community activists committed to educating the public on recognizing the signs of potential human trafficking. “The Keys Coalition is not a religious organization, but the sharing of an idea.”
The Coalition’s chair, Connie Gilbert of the Key West Chapter of NOW, was out of the country, but organizer Tim Gratz introduced spiritual leaders, attorneys and members of the Monroe County School Board who were also in attendance before welcoming guest speakers Christine Poist, head of the Monroe County Bar Association and Adriane Reesey, President of the Broward Human Trafficking Coalition.
A 30-year veteran of law enforcement, Reesey reported to the audience that human trafficking has replaced arms trafficking as the second largest crime around the world, and current estimates predict by the end of next year, human trafficking will replace drug trafficking as the fastest growing criminal industry.
“Trafficking encompasses many facets,” she noted, adding that the issue on which to focus is how the industry, be it for sex or labor, exploits the vulnerabilities of individuals to draw them in.
According to statistics provided by the U.S. State Department, approximately 800,000 to 900,000 men, women and children are victims of modern-day slavery; 18,000 to 20,000 of those individuals are in the United States.
“Forty years ago, a call for domestic dispute was little more than a knock on the door and people were asked to keep it down,” Reesey reflected. “Today, somebody’s going to jail. We now understand the phenomenon of domestic violence and have to acknowledge that it may be here in our back yard.”
She went on to parallel law enforcement’s more clear understanding of domestic violence issues to learning how victims, particularly children, are drawn into the trade. Teenagers are vocalizing their angst and frustrations about their lives in online networks like Facebook thus making them targets for predators who disguise themselves as fellow teenagers.
She cited a case earlier this year in which an Oakland Park couple operating as supposed foster parents was running a brothel with more than a dozen 14 to 17 year old girls as well as another case in Boca Raton where 39 Philippine workers, being held against their will, were employed in country clubs across Dade and Broward County.
“Is it here in Monroe County?” Reesey pondered. “I don’t know. I can only tell you what’s going on, and you make the determination of what it looks like.”
In closing the meeting, Gratz urged attendance at the Coalition’s Jan. 14 rally “Our Kids Are Not For Sale” at the Key West High School. In addition to showing the documentary film “Playground” produced by George Clooney, the rally will feature appearances by our Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehiten who is an activist in the fight against human trafficking and Julian Sher, the investigative journalist who has published the definitive study to date on child prostitution in the United States.