BAY COUNTY, Fla. - Every year, thousands of young women and men are exploited and forced to work in unimaginable conditions.
"Selling people is far more lucrative than selling narcotics," Lt. J.R. Talamantez, Panama City Police, said.
Human Trafficking is the fasted-growing crime in the United States. It affects every age, ethnicity, and community including Northwest Florida.
"In our area, yes, it's here," Talamantez said.
In the last three years, The Florida Department of Children and Families received reports on 338 sex trafficking victims. Officials were able to verify that 59 of those victims were being sold in the sex trade.
Of the total victims, 58 were in Bay County. Eight victims were verified.
"Too many people are still looking at sex trafficking as prostitution, and it's not," Talamantez said. "Traffickers are manipulating victims to think what they are doing is not wrong and what they are doing is benefiting both of them when in fact the only person who is benefiting is the person who is making them do it."