There has been much debate lately about whether or not there is a significant increase in trafficking around the Super Bowl and other major events. The bottom line? There is not substantial research to indiciate this is true, but there are still some documented cases. So the question we have is 2-fold: First, isn't it worth it to go through all the hoopla just to change one person's life, and second isn't it good to raise awareness to the public that flood these event irrespective of whether or not there is more trafficking happening due to it? To both of these, we would say yes.
We have been involved with our sister organization, Stop the Traffik, for many years doing advocacy, awareness around chocolate campaings and other things. Last November, our Executive Director went to Brazil to help with some meetings for prevention around the World Cup with a display called the GIFT Box. And guess what? One just launched in New York for the Super Bowl - we are pretty excited. Check it out here.
However, there are some good points raise about the stretching of facts, etc. and we have gathered some of the best articles and research on this issue for you below:
First things first though - just yesterday police busted a durg and prostitution ring that were selling party-packs of cocaine and sex to those coming in town for the Super Bowl. Was there trafficking involved? Not sure, that remains to be seen but definitely a good thing that they were busted - full article here.
The Super Bowl, America’s most-watched sporting event, is widely considered to be the largest human trafficking event each year and has increasingly faced scrutiny as a draw for human trafficking and forced sex labor. According to Forbes, The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says the 2010 Miami Super Bowl brought 10,000 prostitutes to the city. By the same group’s measure 2011’s Dallas Super Bowl resulted in 133 underage arrests for prostitution. New Jersey officials, like the hosts before them, are preparing and paying close attention to the large influx of men and the party atmosphere that surrounds the event, making it a hotspot for individuals who exploit women and children. Exact numbers are in dispute and hard to quantify, but according to the New Jersey Coalition Against Human Trafficking, "The Super Bowl attracts tens of thousands of fans to the host city … But it also attracts a sector of violence, organized criminal activity that operates in plain sight without notice including human trafficking in both the sex and labor industries."
The Super Bowl’s accessibility of hotels and transportation networks, make it an easy target for both the supply and demand of forced sex labor. CBS has reported, "Many believe the state's sprawling highway system, proximity to New York City and diverse population make it an attractive base of operations for traffickers." As hundreds of thousands of people (mainly men) flock to the New York City metro area for the week’s festivities, the primary motivator for increased prostitution is increased demand for it. According to Dorchen Leidholdt, adjunct professor at Columbia University who teaches about violence against women, "The demand for prostitution will drive trafficking. ... It's supply and demand." - article here
Best Practices Implemented To Deter Human Trafficking At Super Bowls - Starting in 2004, statistics began to be collected at international sporting events such as the Olympics, World Cups, and 2011 Super Bowl, and since then efforts to tackle and deter this crime have become a regular part of Super Bowl preparations at the State level. Last year, the Indiana Attorney General published results of anti-trafficking efforts surrounding the 2012 Super Bowl.
In April 2013, the NJ Coalition Against Human Trafficking looked at best practices. A Summary includes:
· Strengthen Law Enforcement & Victim Services
· Raise Community Awareness - through outreach, media, and trainings
· Engage Civil Society - local and national advocates, community organizations, churches, and colleges
· Anti-Demand Campaign
· Outreach to groups at risk
· Establish protocols within the travel and tourism industry including local hotels
· Distribute Victim Recovery Materials
· Strengthen laws to facilitate persecuting traffickers and rescuing victims
Responses to Those who Downplay Concern about Super Bowl
· Currently, there are very few ways of collecting statistics on Human Trafficking. However, at the governmental level there is an acknowledgement of the potential increase of Human Trafficking around large sporting events. The last three Governors of States where the Super Bowl has taken place implemented increased training of law enforcement, raised awareness among community members, and reached to at-risk kids during the Super Bowl.
· New Jersey’s Attorney General has made anti-Human Trafficking enforcement a priority. They have established a NJ Human Trafficking Task Force which has been working for the past year training law enforcement, working with non-profits, schools, and other civil society and business leaders to ensure that systems are in place to deter trafficking. The goal is to set-up a united front where the traffickers avoid coming to the State, but this does not necessarily correlate with an increase in arrests. Traffickers tend not to come to the host State if they know law enforcement is watching.
· New Jersey has one of the newest laws in the country, signed on May 6, 2013, to combat Human Trafficking. New York is also taking this issue seriously and they have established a Human Trafficking special circuit court.
· The Super Bowl is also an opportunity to educate the community. People will stop and listen if you mention Super Bowl but not necessarily if you just talk about Human Trafficking. There has also been a number of missing children found each Super Bowl and there are a few evangelical groups, including Free International, that come to the State of the Super Bowl and work with at-risk children and specifically look for those missing and sexually exploited one.
Full article here
“Major sporting events like the Super Bowl create a unique surge in demand for sex services,” Carol Smolenski told the committee, stating that 100,000 children across the country are victims of forced sexual labor. Smolenski, executive director of ECPAT-USA, an anti-trafficking organization, emphasized that the Super Bowl’s accessibility of hotels and transportation networks make it an easy target for both the supply and demand of forced sex labor. Article here
“New Jersey has a huge trafficking problem,” said U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who is also co-chairman of the House anti-human trafficking caucus. “One Super Bowl after another after another has shown itself to be one of the largest events in the world where the cruelty of human trafficking goes on for several weeks.”
There are scant statistics and much debate over how much sex trafficking increases during a Super Bowl or large sporting event, but it’s been enough of a concern to prompt New Jersey and prior Super Bowl host cities to pay attention to it. Polaris plans to add additional staffers to the hotline in February, but the organization has seen only a modest uptick in calls during previous Super Bowls, Myles said. Article here
The Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women issued a 2011 report looking at the data on sex work, migration, and arrests around these events, along with several past Super Bowls, and concluded:
"Based on available information (including anecdotal reports), many sex workers report being surprised and disappointed at the lack of business during large sporting events. In any case, any small increases in the demand for paid sexual services have not reached the extremely high levels predicted by prostitution abolitionist groups."
However, despite claims that trafficking is higher during big sporting events like the World Cup and World Series, there aren't many hard numbers on the problem. In 2011, when Texas hosted the Super Bowl, State Attorney General Greg Abbott said the game was known as the "single largest human trafficking incident in the United States."
The Dallas Police Department, however, didn't make any human trafficking or underage prostitution arrests when the game came there. Lt. Richard Kivett, who leads the Indianapolis Police Department's Human Trafficking Unit, said his officers saw a modest uptick in prostitution arrests when the Super Bowl came there in 2012. Authorities, focusing on out-of-towners, discovered two cases of trafficking, including one involving a 17-year-old girl from Cleveland, he said. Kivett's department spoke to officials at past Super Bowl host cities who warned that thousands of prostitutes and trafficking victims might be brought in for the game. Now, he thinks officials may have been exaggerating.
"We did not see what Dallas or Miami told us," Kivett said. "We were expecting a huge number like 500 or 600. We didn't see those numbers. Even though we made more arrests than prior years, we still had a low number."
He added that some 129 suggestive ads were posted on Backpage.com, a site where sex is often sold. In the months surrounding Super Bowl Sunday, 113 prostitution arrests — mainly women in their 20s — were made.
"There's not an enormous amount of data that tells the story that there's a giant spike in trafficking around the Super Bowl," said Bradley Myles, CEO of Polaris Project, which runs the national human trafficking hotline.
Interesting article on how the Super Bowl actually could have a negative effect on those engaged in long-term work to fight trafficking here