Over fifty women and sixteen teenagers were rescued from forced prostitution in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, thanks to the awareness that human rights organizations raised about sex trafficking. Gearing up for the influx of Super Bowl visitors, the state of New Jersey trained hotel staff, local police, airport employees, and students to be on the lookout for signs of human trafficking.
Large sporting events often attract sex traffickers - those who kidnap women and children and force them into sexual slavery - because of the large exposure to potential clientele in the surrounding area. The Super Bowl is said to attract the most prostitution of any sporting event, and many host cities have raised awareness about the issue in the past, hoping to rescue the women and children being exploited.
The LA Times reports that 45 people were arrested on prostitution-related charges in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl. Pimps were caught in several different states, and some admitted that they had planned to travel to New Jersey in order to "capitalize on the large number of people visiting the New Jersey-New York area for the Super Bowl." The game drew an estimated 400,000 people to the area.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and local law enforcement officers teamed up with hotel staff and airport personnel to look for signs of sex trafficking. "The FBI and our partners remain committed to stopping this cycle of victimization and putting those who try to profit from this type of criminal activity behind bars," says Ron Hosko, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Investigative Division. Human rights groups and legislators also raised public awareness in the weeks leading up to the game.
Mail Online reports that over 50 women who were being forced to travel to the New York area for prostitution during the Super Bowl were rescued. Sixteen teenagers - some of which were from foreign countries - were also rescued in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania and placed into protective custody. Time U.S. reports that their ages range from thirteen to seventeen years old, and that some of them had been reported missing by their parents.
The Polaris Project offers several resources on human trafficking, including a list of ways to recognize a human trafficking situation. If you suspect that someone you know is being trafficked, please call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.