Certain claims indicate that The Super Bowl is the largest incident of human trafficking in the Unites States due to the influx of large crowds and ability for victims and traffickers to go unnoticed. Super Bowl LI will be held in Houston this year, and they’re taking precautions to combat the spread of this crime, especially with regards to child sex trafficking. While this does create a lot of awareness for human trafficking and funding to prevent it, there are some misconceptions about these crimes that occur at the Super Bowl that can damage the fight against trafficking.
The Super Bowl and Trafficking
There’s a lot of data to prove that trafficking does occur during The Super Bowl at an alarming rate. An estimated 10,000 prostitutes were brought into Miami in 2010 for The Super Bowl, and in 2011, 133 underage arrests for prostitution were made in Dallas. At Super Bowl 50 in 2016, 30 men were arrested or cited for soliciting prostitution and authorities found 42 potential human trafficking victims in Santa Clara leading up to the event.
Why Is This a Problem?
You may think the problem is with The Super Bowl, but it’s this conception that has created confusion, and potential problems for our cause. It’s not false that human trafficking does happen each year during The Super Bowl, but it’s a misconception that it’s an unnatural and sudden spike. The reason so much data comes out of this event each year, is because more funding is pumped into law enforcement to stop the problem. Many experts think that if the same resources were put into this issue year round, you would see similar, consistent numbers. However, the general notion is that the lack of resources in the FBI don’t allow for this to happen.
The major issue behind this idea is that it creates a false sense of security for the general public regarding trafficking. For example:
- People think trafficking only happens at big events
- People think trafficking only happens in bigger, and further away, cities
- People think it happens less throughout the rest of the year
- People compartmentalize the problem, and treat it as “solved” if it’s enforced during The Super Bowl
In reality, the data isn’t perfect, and we can’t make any claims that The Super Bowl is the biggest outlying event for trafficking. Could it be more focused in one specific location? Sure. Can victims be put under more pressure during The Super Bowl to meet quotas? Most likely. But we can’t fall into the trap of thinking we’re solving a crisis if a bit more arrests are made during The Super Bowl. Additionally, all of these problems together could make parents cease to educate themselves on the warning signs, because they’ll think “that would never happen in our town”.
The Super Bowl as a Gateway for Advocacy
The silver lining to all of this is that due to the awareness during this event, and the amount of people The Super Bowl attracts, advocacy groups use it as an opportunity to educate the masses. Many groups will go to local bars or restaurants to hand out fliers, or stand outside the sporting event to educate people. And of course, more articles are written about human trafficking around this time. This opens a door to get the conversation started, and will help it spread.
What You Can Do
There are a number of things you can do to help the cause.
1. Know the signs to spot a victim
- Is excessively monitored or controlled by parents, a supposed guardian or older partner or “sponsor” who claims to provide for their upbringing and needs, or who insists on speaking for them or being present at all times
- Is detached or (suddenly) isolated from majority of family members and friends
- Is unable to give answers about their schedules or living and work locations/conditions; appears to possibly work and live in the same building or location
- Suffers from substance abuse problems (alcohol and/or drugs), an array of other psychological disorders, sexually transmitted diseases, or chronic illnesses
- Sudden presence of an older boyfriend
- Has a tattoo with a name that is not their own; or that he/she is reluctant to explain
Go to our Safe Harbour program section to view a full list of red flags
2. Get trained or educated
Anyone who works with youth on a daily basis should be trained. We offer on-site training for youth groups, or any professionals who work with youth. You can view more information here.
3. Report potential victims
There are multiple avenues you can take, like speaking to the authorities. We, and some other groups, offer direct referrals and case management. The Safe Harbour Project provides intensive case management services for child survivors of trafficking and at-risk youth. Services include safety planning, needs assessment and service planning, linkages with external service providers and emergency wrap around services.
The biggest thing to know is human trafficking should be about prevention. It’s nice to see more arrests made and victims rescued, but that still means more can be done to prevent it from happening in the first place. Our Safe Harbour Project is about education and prevention, for both professionals and high risk youth.
For more information, visit our Safe Harbour page