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UWF students, faculty and local community take a stand against human trafficking

University of West Florida | news@uwf.edu

UWF students, faculty and local community take a stand against human trafficking

Nearly 200 students and community members attended a Human Trafficking Awareness Night on April 10 at the University of West Florida Conference Center.

Organized by the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, the event showcased several speakers and agencies with an interest in putting an end to human trafficking, a form of human slavery that may include forced labor, domestic servitude or commercial sex trafficking.

According to Dr. Andrew Denney, assistant professor who also serves on the Circuit 1 Human Trafficking Task Force, the event came about thanks to the interest of UWF students Kara Wells and Carla Von Kaenel.

“They approached me with their interest in holding the event, and because of my work with the task force, I was able to help them recruit speakers and some of the other participating agencies,” he said. 

The night began with a three-minute video message from U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, who expressed his appreciation for the partnerships in the community and the work that is being done to combat human trafficking. Aides from Rep. Gaetz’s office were in attendance at the event.

“A lot of politicians at the local and national level are taking an interest in the issue of human trafficking, which is nice to see,” Denney said.

Speakers included Kristin Lipscomb, pastor of Liberty Church and chair of the Circuit 1 Human Trafficking Task Force; Kimberly Zarnesky and Special Agent Canning with the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Joan Irby, regional recruiter for Guardian ad Litem; Kendall Altmyer with The Penny Story; and UWF alumna Alicia Tappan, a human trafficking survivor and volunteer with A21.

“Tappan’s story really illustrates that no one is immune to human trafficking,” said Denney.

Denney estimated that students comprised about 75 percent of the audience.

“The interest from students speaks to the passion that exists for this issue on campus, and there is a desire for the task force to engage students in its work, as well,” Denney said.

The Circuit 1 Human Trafficking Task Force meets monthly at the J.E. Hall Center in Pensacola.

“The task force is the perfect cross-section of state and local agencies, with representatives from the Department of Children & Families, the Department of Juvenile Justice, Department of Homeland Security, ATF, the FBI and others,” Denney said. “Getting involved is a good networking opportunity for students. In fact, a number of UWF graduates I’ve taught are now members of the task force through their jobs.”

Students interested in participating in the task force may contact Denney at 850.474.2784 or adenney@uwf.edu.

For more information about the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, visit uwf.edu.

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