After typing in “Minor Sex-Trafficking Tampa News”, it only takes milliseconds for Google search results to flood through pages of local articles. While scrolling through these articles can be extremely disturbing, disheartening, and overwhelming, it is important to be aware of what is going on behind closed doors within our community.
Reading these articles is not easy. But, the reality is that it’s the furthest thing from easy for the victims that had to live through sex trafficking. For some people, it can be difficult to put it all into perspective. With Florida being third in the United States for human trafficking hubs, it’s hard to imagine each of the individuals that have experienced it. Over time, the statistics can overwhelm us and lead us to forget about the individual stories behind each number.
These victims are children who have had their childhoods stolen from them by adults who should be protecting them. By reading and sharing these news articles, we are able to spread awareness and accountability in the Tampa Bay area. Since there are thousands of stories to sort through, our team at Bridging Freedom has selected some of the latest stories of justice being served in Tampa regarding minor sex trafficking. Let’s take a look at these updates.
1st Federal Arrest for Human Trafficking Under The Tampa Bay Human Trafficking Task Force
Date: April 29, 2022
Summary: Last month, U.S. District Judge Steven D. Merryday sentenced an Orlando man to 24 years and 4 months in federal prison for sex trafficking. For 7 months, convict Henry Lee White, III (27, Orlando), forced a victim to engage in commercial sex with buyers all throughout Florida and Georgia.
After the victim was able to reach out to law enforcement, the victim was soon recovered by officers in an undercover operation. This operation was able to bring the victim back to safety through the quick action of the Homeland Security Investigations, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, the Tampa Police Department, and Selah Freedom (U.S. Department of Justice).
- Orlando Man Sentenced To Over 24 Years For Sex Trafficking By Force, Fraud, And Coercion | USAO-MDFL | Department of Justice
- Florida man sentenced to 24+ years for sex trafficking (abcactionnews.com)
Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Capital Sexual Battery Arrest
Date: April 26, 2022
Summary: At the end of April, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office arrested a 44-year-old man for capital sexual battery and production of child porn. While attending a birthday party, Christopher Thompson lured a 5-year-old girl to his house where he sexually battered her. Before returning her to the party, Thompson forced the girl to watch child porn. He told the girl to be quiet and not tell anyone about what happened.
As of May 10th, there are 8 people victimized by Thompson. Since Thompson was what seemed to be a “trusted adult”, this has raised the conversation about educating young kids.
Hilda Arreola, the Southeast Prevention Coordinator with Shelah Freedom, has provided age-appropriate lessons in all school districts in the Tampa Bay area (WTSP). Arreola, alongside the Florida Department of Education, continues to uphold Florida’s required sex trafficking education that was mandated in 2019.
- Florida man sexually assaults girl amid party | wtsp.com
- Resources to teach children about sexual predators | wtsp.com
- Manatee sheriff: Man who sexually battered girl victimized others | wtsp.com
Milestone: Hillsborough County Locks Up 300 Child Predators
Date: April 6, 2022
Summary: On Wednesday, April 6, Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren announced that Hillsborough County has locked up 300 child predators over a 5-year span. In the news conference, Warren explains how this milestone is shared to spread awareness on behalf of survivors and the community. Under Warren’s leadership, families and victims have been able to receive the justice they deserve. This significant milestone is an important achievement in the ongoing efforts to keep our children and community safe from child predators. Watch the YouTube video below to hear Warren speak about the major milestone.
- Hillsborough prosecutors lock up 300 predators in 5-year span | wtsp.com
- ‘Bracket of losers’: More than 100 arrested in undercover Polk County sex sting (fox13news.com)
Multi-Agency Human Trafficking Operation Arrests 13 Individuals in Tampa Bay
Date: February 24 and 25, 2022
Summary: The Tampa Bay Human Trafficking Task Force conducted a multi-agency human trafficking operation that resulted in 13 arrests. With help from agencies like Homeland Security, St. Petersburg Police, FDLE, Tampa Police, Largo Police, and others, they were able to perform an online undercover operation to find who was soliciting sex for minors.
The law enforcement groups launched this operation to “target sellers and buyers of sexual acts and those who prey on underaged children” (St. Petersburg Police). Of the 13 individuals arrested, six of them faced human trafficking charges, five of them for offering to commit/soliciting prostitution, and two for traveling to meet a minor for sexual activity (Winiecki).
- 13 arrested in multi-agency human trafficking operation (abcactionnews.com)
- Tampa area human trafficking operation | WFLA
- Pete PD: 13 arrested in sting, 6 charged with trafficking | wtsp.com
Bridging Freedom | Restoring Stolen Childhoods
Our team serves as an advocate for restoring stolen childhoods. At Bridging Freedom, we aim to combat domestic minor sex-trafficking through our restoration programs for rescued victims by providing a therapeutic safe homes for victims. Aside from providing services for victims, Bridging Freedom aims to educate the community about the horrors going on behind closed doors.
Through partnerships with Clearwater / Tampa Bay Area Task Force on Human Trafficking, Tampa Bay FBI Innocence Lost Initiative, and St. Petersburg College Center for Human Trafficking Awareness, Bridging Freedom can help provide victims with a safe place and connect them to necessary resources. In order to allow us to continue doing what we do, Bridging Freedom relies on the generosity and collaboration of our community of supporters.
If you would like to be a part of our group of supporters, then you can donate at the page here.