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'We're coming for you': St. Pete police lead regional task force to combat human trafficking

The task force focuses on education, rescue and enforcement.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Local law enforcement agencies have renewed strength and resources when it comes to tackling human trafficking.

Chief Anthony Holloway announced a new grant from the Department of Justice for $741,556 to tackle human trafficking. The three-year grant will cover the new regional Tampa Bay Human Trafficking Task Force, a collaboration of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

The approach of the task force can be broken down into three parts: education, rescue and enforcement. The force will educate both officers and community members on what to look for when it comes to human trafficking cases. 

And, with more eyes on the ground, there is a great opportunity to spot cases.

"We see you. We see it. And, to the traffickers, we're coming for you," Holloway said Wednesday.

For rescue, the task force has tapped local non-profits and NGOs to provide victim services. Selah Freedom, a national organization aimed at ending sex trafficking and empowering and helping trafficking victims, is teaming up with the force to provide resources to the victims.

Holloway is hopeful that enforcement will also be stronger thanks to this new task force and their ability to reach across county lines. 

With local offices and departments partnering all the way from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office to Wauchula and Zephyrhills police, even when crime and cases stretch into different jurisdictions, the involved enforcement entities can work together and prevent information and resources from being siloed.

RELATED: PSTA trains bus drivers to recognize signs of human trafficking

RELATED: She was tattooed by a sex trafficker. Now, she's turning her trauma into purpose.

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