JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Duval County is ranked fifth in Florida for the number of positively identified cases involving commercially sexually exploited children, according to a state organization aimed at conquering the sex trade.
Open Doors Outreach Network searches for verified cases of sex trafficking involving girls and boys through the Office of Programs Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA). As of June, Duval County had 26 confirmed cases in 2016 of sex trafficking.
Broward County ranked No. 1 with 52 verified cases of sex trafficking, followed by Orange County with 41, Miami-Dade County with 40 and Hillsboro County with 36.
These cases are verified through the Florida Department of Children and Families, said Voices for Florida President Linda Alexionok.
Duval County Court records from 2012 to 2016 show 37 defendants were arrested and charged with crimes related to sex trafficking of adults or children including forcing another to become a prostitute, living off the earnings of prostitution, and coercing commercial sex activity by transporting an individual.
Click through the slideshow to see Jacksonville arrests for sex trafficking-related crimes.
The faces of commercial sexual activity in Jacksonville
Of the 37 defendants, 27 of the cases against them were dropped by the state, according to court records.
Chief Assistant State Attorney Mac Heavener said some cases were likely dropped after they were transferred to the federal system. Other cases could have been dropped due to a lack of evidence or a victim being unwilling to testify, he said.
The National Human Trafficking Hotline ranks Jacksonville no. 48 in its national list of cities by the number of calls. Three hundred and twenty calls were made to the hotline about possible victims of sex trafficking in 2016.
National Human Trafficking Hotline - 1 (888) 373-7888
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children - 1 (800) THE LOST