Leaders promote awareness of human trafficking ahead of Super Bowl LV

January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. County officials are asking the public to remain vigilant for the signs that someone is being trafficked leading up to and during Super Bowl LV in Tampa the weekend of Feb. 7.

Human trafficking is common during big events due to the influx of out-of-town visitors. Human traffickers often use force, fraud and coercion to exploit workers for commercial sex or forced labor. Anyone who sees something they suspect is human trafficking is urged to report it as soon as possible.

The Tampa Bay Human Trafficking Task Force, which includes Pinellas County Human Services, has launched a free app on the iTunes and Google Play stores where anyone can anonymously report suspected human trafficking incidents directly to local Task Force investigators.

The Tampa Bay Human Trafficking Task Force focuses on three core areas: education, rescue and enforcement. More information about the Task Force is available at https://police.stpete.org/human-trafficking-task-force/.

From January through September 2020, member agencies opened 107 new investigations in sex trafficking, resulting in 34 arrests and identification of 79 potential victims with 10 of those victims under the age of 17. In addition, seven new investigations in labor trafficking were opened with 15 potential victims identified.

Anyone who observes or suspects that Human Trafficking is occurring should report it on the app or text “HTTF” to tip411, adding a space, typing in their tip information, and hitting send. Alternately, you can contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888 or text INFO or HELP to 233-733 to access help and services.

County offering more tools, information available for recycling

In a continuous effort to practice effective environmental stewardship, Pinellas County is offering new and updated tools to give residents and visitors easy recycling and waste disposal options. The county has released the new 2021 Recycle Guide and updated its popular A to Z Guide to Recycling and Disposal with a new name — the Where Does it Go? search tool — with the addition of resources for local businesses.

In this year’s Recycle Guide, residents and businesses can learn how to recycle or safely dispose of hundreds of items with the county’s Where Does it Go? search tool, found at www.pinellascounty.org/wheredoesitgo. The tool allows users to type the name of an item they need to dispose of and discover if the material can be reused, recycled, trashed, or specially handled. Links, locations and contact information will guide the users to their disposal options.

The Recycle Guide is available online at www.pinellascounty.org/recycleguide.

Copies will also be sent to all Pinellas County schools. Free copies will be available at many libraries and government offices around the county.

Residents can access both of these resources and more by visiting www.pinellascounty.org/recycle.

Pinellas receives grant to develop flood mitigation action plan

Pinellas County will receive $992,000 to fund the creation of a countywide flood mitigation action plan, awarded by the state of Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity.

Pinellas County plans to use the funding to cover costs of ongoing work to assess and reduce the county’s vulnerability to flooding. This work will use advanced data and tools to analyze potential exposure of community assets and create strategies for mitigation. It will also recommend actions for community planning and outreach.

“We are very pleased to receive this federal funding from the state, which will have a significant impact on our efforts to make the county more resilient to flooding,” said Pinellas County Sustainability and Resiliency Coordinator Hank Hodde. “As one of Florida’s most vulnerable counties, with water on three sides, it’s critical that we continue to make progress in these efforts.”

Four other Tampa Bay area municipalities and organizations also received funding as part of the state grant, which was announced Jan. 8 by Gov. Ron DeSantis:

• City of St. Petersburg received $900,626 to develop a comprehensive seawall mitigation strategy to address sea level rise.

• City of Tampa received $500,000 to develop a coastal resiliency action plan to evaluate state, local, and regional requirements.

• Pasco County received $754,870 to develop a vulnerability assessment to identify at-risk and critical infrastructure subject to natural disasters and provide adaptive and mitigation strategies.

• Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council is one of six regional planning councils around the state, led by the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council, that will receive $1,499,000 to develop a statewide approach to flood planning that will provide a regional framework to models and planning efforts.

The funds are being made available through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s Rebuild Florida General Planning Support Program. The program, administered by the DEO, provides funding for communities and organizations to develop or enhance state, regional, or local plans that will enable the state of Florida to withstand future disasters.

The funds are allocated through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Community Development Block Grant – Mitigation program formed in response to the 2016-17 presidentially declared disasters.

Through Rebuild Florida, local governments and municipalities have access to resources necessary to bolster their community’s resiliency to future disasters.

DEO is the governor-designated state authority responsible for administering all U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) long-term recovery funds awarded to the state. Rebuild Florida uses federal funding for Florida’s long-term recovery efforts from the devastating impacts of natural disasters. For more information, visit RebuildFlorida.gov.

Governor appoints state attorney for Sixth Judicial Circuit

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order 21-12 on Jan. 21, appointing Bruce L. Bartlett as state attorney for the Sixth Judicial Circuit.

Bartlett, who currently serves as Chief Assistant State Attorney, replaces the late Bernie McCabe, who passed away on Jan. 1, after serving as state attorney since 1992.

Eco-Partnership engages hospitality industry and tourists

A new environmental partnership is now available for Pinellas County hotels.

Keep Pinellas Beautiful is launching its pilot Eco-Partnership for the hospitality industry with funding from a Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council and Florida Department of Transportation grant for stormwater education. This initiative provides marine debris prevention training and ecosystem education to hospitality partners and offers volunteer and eco-tourism opportunities to guests.

Certified B Corporation Legacy Vacation Resorts of Indian Shores has signed on to become Keep Pinellas Beautiful’s first Eco-Partner.

Keep Pinellas Beautiful, known for engaging more than 20,000 local volunteers on an annual basis, sought a way to reach the tourist population. Coastal Pinellas hotels offer direct engagement with that audience.

“We’re expanding the culture of responsibility in Pinellas County by inviting hospitality to educate visitors,” said Keep Pinellas Beautiful Executive Director Pat DePlasco.

The Keep Pinellas Beautiful Eco-Partnership is a way to cultivate environmental responsibility even with visiting audiences. In coastal areas, most debris is washed into the ocean and beach environments are vulnerable to tourist litter. Through education and eco-tourism, visitors become temporary stakeholders of Florida’s beaches.

Keep Pinellas Beautiful received funding from the TBRPC/FDOT for the 2021 stormwater education grant cycle. This funding will cover new educational materials, sample sustainable products, training materials for hospitality staff, and environmental opportunities for tourists.

Shortly after receiving funding, Keep Pinellas Beautiful signed on its first official Eco-Partner, Legacy Vacation Resorts of Indian Shores.

“As a Certified B Corporation, LVR is dedicated to creating a positive impact for people and the planet,” said Resort Manager Mike Greenbaum. “This partnership highlights our commitment to the environment and the local community, and the four beach cleanups per year that we’ve agreed to coordinate as a part of this initiative strongly support our environmental stewardship. We always seek to use our business as a force for good, and this effort is just one of the many ways we can accomplish that.”

Keep Pinellas Beautiful is seeking additional coastal hotel Eco-Partners to partner with in 2021. Interested parties can call 727-533-0402 or send an inquiry to programs@kpbcares.org for more information.

Engaging the tourist population as volunteers and stewards helps keep our waterways clean and our beaches beautiful for the local community and future visitors.

“We want our county visitors included in our mission to keep Pinellas beautiful so they walk away from their visit with a newfound sense of responsibility for the environment,” said DePlasco.