University of South Florida St. Petersburg



Anti-trafficking professionals gather for BRIGHT launch

Alan Wilkett, a retired corporal from the Pasco County Sherriff’s Office, speaks to a group of anti-trafficking professionals at the launch of USF's BRIGHT Network,

BRIGHT Network launches new platform, connecting human trafficking victims to critical resources in the community

By Sarah Sell, University Communications and Marketing

More than one hundred anti-trafficking professionals came together at USF St. Petersburg to officially launch the BRIGHT Network, an online platform that helps victims of human trafficking escape their situations by connecting them with organizations and resources in their community.

The BRIGHT (Bridging Resources and Information Gaps in Human Trafficking) Network, developed by researchers at USF in close collaboration with anti-trafficking professionals and survivors, is an online, vetted, secure resource referral network for those who provide services to victims of trafficking.

The centralized platform allows professionals in anti-trafficking organizations to track, coordinate and provide resources such as health care and safe housing to survivors. Law enforcement, non-profit organizations and social workers can access the user-friendly technology as they seek to assist victims of labor and sex trafficking.

During the launch, representatives from several non-profit organizations and law enforcement agencies used the technology for the first time.

“It’s a game changer for law enforcement when they’re working these types of operations,” said Alan Wilkett, a retired corporal from the Pasco County Sherriff’s Office who remains actively involved in anti-human trafficking efforts in Florida. “In law enforcement, we often struggled to find resources because we are not equipped to deal with victims and survivors.”

Currently, when law enforcement officials encounter trafficking victims during the line of duty, it can be unclear what people or resources are available to provide help. For many trafficking victims, it may take multiple attempts to detach them from their situation, so connecting them with the right people and resources at the right time is key.

“It will reduce the time and effort it takes to find a trusted, vetted service and make the connection they need for that survivor. The system will also collect the data we need to generate reports for the state of Florida and identify gaps in victim services so we can better direct funds,” said Shelly Wagers, a criminology professor at USF St. Petersburg and lead researcher of the BRIGHT Network.

Bright Network services

The BRIGHT Network allows users to access several types of resources a victim might need.

The online platform is partnering with more than 18 network providers, including the Florida Department of Children and Families, who will soon start providing services to adult clients referred to the agency.

“We are collaborating closely with the Department of Children and Families to establish a formal agreement that underscores our mutual commitment to a standardized, high-quality system of care for survivors of human trafficking,” Wagers said.

The BRIGHT project came about in 2020 after the launch of the USF Trafficking in Persons – Risk to Resilience Lab, a statewide data repository dedicated to studying the impacts of sex and labor trafficking. As part of the TIP Lab, Wagers was asked to conduct a needs assessment that involved 100 community partners engaged in anti-trafficking work. Two key themes emerged: a need for better data on human trafficking and a more efficient way to connect trafficking victims to the services they need.

The TIP Lab recently received nearly $3 million in federal support to build and enhance anti-trafficking tools. About $1.85 million will go towards expanding the BRIGHT Network to a statewide platform to assist survivors and combat trafficking.

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