CRESTVIEW — The Crestview Public Library will tackle a global topic as part of its First Tuesday Series. George Collins, of the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, will discuss human trafficking at 10:30 a.m. Dec. 4.
Collins, who has been with the sheriff's office since 2001, deals with human trafficking cases while working with the Homeland Security unit and the regional domestic security taskforce.
"There have been several instances of human trafficking in the (Florida) panhandle," Collins said, adding illegal human trade could happen in any small town.
Aside from prostitution, other forms include labor trafficking, domestic servitude and debt bonding, Collins said. "Debt bonding mainly involves those who are in the country illegally,” he said, adding that immigrants face a huge debt from their smugglers. "Usually, these unscrupulous people continue to raise that person's debt once they are in the country," Collins said.
An abundance of people living in a small space — like 15 people in a two-bedroom apartment — may be an indicator of human trafficking, especially if several vehicles go to and from a residence, officials said. Non-English speaking people who seem depressed or sad while at work also may be red flags.
"The best thing to do is contact law enforcement and not approach the subjects on their own," Collins said. Additionally, residents should have as much information as possible before contacting the authorities.
"The more information we have, the better off we are at stopping these kinds of activities," Collins said.
The library staff hopes attendees leave with a better understanding on the many ways human trafficking occurs within U.S. borders, reference librarian Sandra Dreaden said.
"We want people to know that modern slavery is still around in other forms to this day," Dreaden said. "We want them to learn how to be aware of these situations and what they can do to help prevent it."
Coffee and cookies will be available beforehand. Call the library, 682-4432, for details.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Matthew Brown at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbMatthew.